Divided RWSA votes to move sewer pump station from Woolen Mills
By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Albemarle County and Charlottesville’s representatives on the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority board disagreed Wednesday over the location for a replacement for the Rivanna regional pump station.
The RWSA board voted 4-3 to choose an option that would build a new facility at the site of the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
This alternative, known as Option E, would include drilling a 2,000-foot tunnel to extend an existing sewer pipe that runs along the Rivanna River. The firm Hazen & Sawyer estimated this option would cost between $38 million and $40 million.
The county’s representatives on the board argued that replacing the station at its existing location adjacent to the city’s Riverview Park would be more affordable. Hazen & Sawyer estimated that Option A would cost between $25 million and $27 million.
“The direction I’ve gotten from our board is that they there’s a more cost-effective alternative that is $13 million cheaper,” said Gary O’Connell, executive director of the Albemarle County Service Authority.
“Most of my neighbors are unavailable today but I hope you will remember their numbers and voices,” urged Woolen Mills resident Robin Hanes, who was the lone member of the public to address the RWSA board.
Councilor David Brown said he and his colleagues remembered the neighborhood’s position well.
“This is simple from the city’s point of view,” Brown said. “City Council had a unanimous vote in favor of concept E. That’s how we have to move forward.”
Brown said it was unlikely the council would grant a special-use permit for expansion at the existing site in Woolen Mills.
“If this was a new project, no one would be talking about putting it in a residential neighborhood,” Brown said.
Brown made a motion that the RWSA select Option E and said negotiations on a cost-share allocation would be completed no later than June 30.
Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said the city should pay the full cost difference.
“This is an additional $13 million or a 30 percent, increase in the cost of this project,” Boyd said. “I think the city ought to be willing to step up and not only support your neighborhood but put the additional money into it.”
Brown, who leaves the council at the end of this week, said he did not think the city would pick up the full cost difference.
“We [should] pay for this as we look down the road on the basis of use, the same way we pay for other things,” Brown said.
Michael Gaffney, the chairman and the only jointly appointed member of the RWSA board, voted for Option E.
Victoria Dunham, president of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association, said she was relieved by the board’s action.
“Sanity prevailed and the next step is making sure that it is not harmful and that it is done in a way sensitive to property owners,” Dunham said.
The board authorized the RWSA’s executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr., to enter into a $2.9 million contract with Hazen & Sawyer for design services.
“This covers the entire final design phase of the project,” Frederick said.
The pump station is being upgraded to handle a peak capacity of 53 million gallons a day. Existing infrastructure cannot handle large volumes of stormwater that infiltrates the station, leading to sewage spills into Moores Creek and the Rivanna River.
A consent decree between the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the RWSA required a selection of a single alternative to be made before Dec. 31.