Albemarle Supervisors question chloramines decisionmaking
By Courtney Beale
Thursday, May 3, 2012
At their meeting Wednesday, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors entered one water controversy and learned another had reached a major milestone. Thomas L. Frederick Jr., the executive director of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, provided an update on plans to add chloramines to the local water supply and the status of construction of the new Ragged Mountain Dam.
Chloramines disinfection equipment in Los Angeles, CA
Photo used by permission of LEE & RO, Inc.
Download recent chloramine documentation
March 9, 2012 memo summarizing basis for chloramines project
July 2011 Executive Summary from consultant Hazen and Sawyer
EPA background information on chloramines
Related stories by Charlottesville Tomorrow
Chloramines in drinking water to be topic of public forum in June, April 24, 2012, by Brian Wheeler
Chemical engineer briefs ACSA on chloramines, April 21, 2012, by Sean Tubbs
Supervisors Kenneth C. Boyd and Ann H. Mallek both expressed concerns about the process behind the decision to implement chloramines as a water treatment chemical. Mallek was concerned about how something that has become so controversial could have passed by the Albemarle supervisors, seemingly without review.
"We wouldn't have known to request information if we didn't know it was happening," Mallek said. "So that's why some citizens feel as if they're late to the party."
Frederick responded by saying that the issues surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency's new disinfection byproduct regulations and their impacts on the capital improvement plan were heard during the March 2011 and May 2011 RWSA board meetings, both of which included opportunities for public comment.
Chloramines, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, will be replacing chlorine in the urban ring's water supply as a secondary disinfectant. Stricter EPA regulations regarding byproduct levels have led to its use in many localities throughout the country. Concerns about chloramines have arisen because some say chloramines pose a greater health risk than traditional chlorine.
Boyd had an explanation as to why the issues surrounding chloramines were not brought to the forefront of their attention sooner.
"I think what happened was everybody was fixated on the dam at the time," Boyd said. "They weren't really paying attention."
Boyd, the county's elected representative on the RWSA board, wanted the conflicting arguments about chloramination to be better presented to the Albemarle supervisors as well as the RWSA board.
"I didn't know that there were these opposing viewpoints on the safeness of using chloramines," Boyd said. "That was never really in any of the reports we got from Rivanna."
"I'm not saying this as a criticism," Boyd added. "I just think that... going forward, when there are controversial issues there, if you could present that to us at the Rivanna board, we would know more."
Boyd suggested that a "favorable conditions and unfavorable conditions" section be added to future RWSA's reports.
Frederick and the supervisors agreed that a public information session about chloramines should be held. Frederick asked that questions be sent to the RWSA ahead of time so that their consultant, Hazen and Saywer, could prepare.
However, Mallek expressed concern that only one consulting firm researched the RWSA's water treatment options.
Frederick responded to Snow by saying the project is proceeding despite the lawsuit.
"We are fully under authority to do all the activities we are doing right now," Frederick said.
In an interview, Frederick stated that the notice to proceed had just been issued to Thalle Construction. Representatives from Thalle declined to comment on this story, but Frederick made it clear they could begin construction on the dam at any time.
"[Thalle Construction is] authorized to proceed," said Frederick. "That's their decision, but we anticipate from the schedule they have submitted to us that they will [proceed]."
Frederick also said that the project to dredge the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir is making progress and the RWSA is reviewing proposals that were submitted in April.
"[The RWSA has] just received three proposals," said Frederick. "They haven't been reviewed before staff to see if there is confidential information and after that has been determined the proposition will be online."