Steep rate increase for sewer service projected in Albemarle
By Sean Tubbs
Friday, November 18, 2011
The executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority told his board of directors Thursday that the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s next capital infrastructure program will include around $200 million in projects.
“We will have to have a large rate increase for wastewater next year just to meet the RWSA capital improvements,” said Gary B. O’Connell.
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O’Connell noted that the increase for ACSA customers could be as much as 40 percent over five years for sewer service. However, he said an initial analysis shows water rates may decrease by as much as 7 percent over the same period.
The RWSA’s last CIP was adopted in September 2010 and included $171.6 million in both water and sewer projects, most of which will also be included into the new five-year plan.
"The CIP includes all costs for all the projects listed in the program including money that has already been spent,” said Thomas L. Frederick, executive director of the RWSA. “There is not $200 million in new spending proposed.”
For instance, Frederick said the $48 million upgrade of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment will be included in the new CIP, even though the work is well underway and significant payments have already been made. Other large wastewater projects include replacement of major sewer pipes.
Frederick said he did not know yet when the new CIP would be presented to the RWSA board.
Another wastewater project is the replacement of the Rivanna Regional Pump Station in order to increase its capacity. The cost is not yet known because the RWSA has yet to select the station’s location.
The ACSA board was briefed Thursday on the three sites that have been studied by the firm Hazen & Sawyer. The current facility is located near the city’s Riverview Park and must be replaced due to a consent decree between the RWSA and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
“[The pump station] is the only place in our system where we had overflows in our last rain,” O’Connell said.
Under the terms of the decree, the RWSA must select an option by Dec. 31.
City Council passed a resolution earlier this month to declare they will not support Option A, which would replace the existing station in the same location.
The resolution also stated council’s preference is Option E, which would extend the existing sewer line with a 2,000-foot tunnel so the new station could be built on the property of the wastewater treatment plant.
Option A would cost between $25 million and $27 million, whereas building at the treatment plant would cost between $38 million and $40 million.The debt service on a bond package to pay for the new station would raise rates by an additional $2.85 a month for Option A and by $4.24 for Option E according an analysis conducted by Hazen & Sawyer.
“Part of what would need to happen on a project of this size is that there be some kind of cost-sharing agreement,” O’Connell said.
A $55 million concept, known as Option D, would build the new station across the Rivanna River on land currently owned by State Farm.
After the briefing, the ACSA took no action on the pump station in part because the item is not on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the RWSA.
O’Connell said there would not be a quorum at the monthly RWSA board meeting due to the Thanksgiving holiday, so selection final decision has been postponed until December.
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