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July 15, 2012

Soundboard 7-13-2012 - Charlottesville's news straight from the source

Soundboard

Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source

A collaborative local news radio program by WTJU 91.1 FM, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and C-Ville Weekly.

Each Friday from 4-5 PM, tune in to hear area journalists and guests discuss local news, culture, and community issues in the Charlottesville area. Whether we're talking about city politics, scientific innovations, or the local music scene, you'll get to hear in-depth discussion about stories that matter.

Soundboard is co-hosted by WTJU's Lewis Reining and Charlottesville Tomorrow's Jennifer Marley.

Podcasts may be downloaded from this website, via RSS, and via Charlottesville Tomorrow on iTunes.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120713-Soundboard

The July 13 show features contributors Giles Morris, Laura Ingles, Ryan McCrimmon & Graelyn Brashear (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs & Ian Lamb (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

Soundboard is produced by Robert Packard and Nathan Moore. We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
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July 10, 2012

Water authority celebrates completed upgrades and environmental dividends

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The mood was celebratory as local officials gathered to witness the dedication ceremony for the newly improved Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

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The facility treats wastewater for all of the city of Charlottesville and for Albemarle County’s urban areas, including Crozet. The event marked the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s completion of the first major improvement there since the mid 1980s.

“Today we’re celebrating the completion of the $48 million Capital Improvement Project that lives and breathes our environmental policy of cleaner rivers, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay and a smaller carbon footprint,” said RWSA chairman Mike Gaffney at the beginning of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

The project brought improvements to almost all of the existing facilities, including modernizing aeration systems to improve the wastewater processing efficiency, as well as adding covers to existing structures to minimize the plant’s odor. In addition to the refurbishments, the plant received several new structures and increased the plant’s peak flow capabilities to almost 38 million gallons a day.

The additions and refurbishments will have an overall positive impact on the environment, and will assist in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Key among the goals is the reduction of phosphorous and nitrogen, which contribute to algal blooms and can be disastrous to wildlife.

“A lot of times you hear that we have failed on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup,” said David Paylor, director of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “We have already accomplished 60 percent of the nitrogen removal that is our goal and 70 percent of the phosphorous. We’ve made a lot of progress; we’ve got some more to do.”

Continue reading "Water authority celebrates completed upgrades and environmental dividends" »

Health of Chesapeake improving partially because of local efforts

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The James River Green Building Council welcomed Ann B. Jurczyk, the Virginia outreach and advocacy manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, to Charlottesville on Tuesday to speak about pollution reduction in the Chesapeake Bay.

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Ann B. Jurczyk, Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Jurczyk described ways to help the area meet its goals to improve the health of the bay under what is known as Phase 2 of the Watershed Implementation Plan.

In December 2010, the EPA established a “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay. Each state was assigned a Total Maximum Daily Load of pollutants that can be released into the bay.

In accordance with WIP Phase 2, localities within the bay watershed have submitted their plans for achieving pollution reductions. This will be done through reducing sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous runoff in local streams and rivers.

“Collectively I think we’ve all got an opportunity to share in some of the [pollution] reductions,” Jurczyk said. “If we can clean up locally, eventually the bay will take care of itself but we have to start here, with what goes on in our backyard.”

Both the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County have submitted their input for the WIP. Both localities will create an inventory of current best management practices and increase BMP installations. Charlottesville will also conduct stormwater retention retrofits on school and city property and educate the public on the importance of reducing pet waste, among other things.

The difference between WIP Phase 2 and plans of the past is that it establishes attainment checkpoints every two years. This will allow localities to track their pollution levels and make adjustments as needed.

Continue reading "Health of Chesapeake improving partially because of local efforts" »

June 27, 2012

City, county miss Rivanna pump station deadline

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Albemarle County Service Authority and the city of Charlottesville will not meet a self-imposed deadline to enter into a cost-share agreement for the replacement of the Rivanna sewer pump station.

When the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority’s board of directors voted 4-3 in December to select a location for the pump station, it also set a June 30 deadline to determine how the cost of the $40 million project would be shared.

All three of Albemarle’s representatives on the board voted against the option because they favored replacing the station at its existing location adjacent to the city’s Riverview Park. That option had a cost estimate of $27 million.

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The RWSA met for the first time in a year and a half at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

 “We knew of no engineering reason to move it to another site and the cost of moving it was very large,” said Liz Palmer, a member of the ACSA’s board. “We thought we could design it so that it was acceptable to the community at its present site and save ratepayers $13 million.”

Instead, the station will be moved onto land at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. A 2,000-foot-long tunnel will carry sewage to the new station via a route that will go underneath Riverside Avenue and other roads.

The station’s replacement is one of several items mandated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. The new pump station will be able to handle a peak capacity of 53 million gallons a day. The existing station cannot handle large volumes of stormwater, leading to sewage spills into the Rivanna River.

The RWSA charges the city and county different wholesale rates based on the percentage of flow from each community. If a specific agreement is not in place, the cost-share for new infrastructure is based on that percentage.

Continue reading "City, county miss Rivanna pump station deadline" »

May 23, 2012

With rising public interest, information session scheduled on chloramines debate

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority will hold a public information session on June 21 regarding the proposed use of chloramines as a secondary water disinfectant in the urban water supply starting in 2014.

At its meeting Tuesday, the RWSA board of directors discussed concerns raised by local residents about potential negative health impacts of the new treatment process.

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Kathleen M. Galvin, Charlottesville City Council

The board also received a detailed seven-page memo from its executive director, Thomas L. Frederick Jr., addressing 13 issues raised by the public at last month’s meeting.

“I would hope what we could have is a dialogue that allows for the exchange of information,” Frederick said. “What we are trying to do here is inform the public on an option that we believe, the EPA believes, the Virginia Department of Health believes, is an acceptable option.”

The meeting will be held in Lane Auditorium at the Albemarle County Office Building-McIntire. Questions from the public will be accepted in writing at the meeting and may be submitted in advance via the RWSA website.

A public hearing on the issue also will be held at a separate meeting of the “four boards” responsible for the local water supply — the RWSA, the Albemarle County Service Authority, Charlottesville’s City Council and Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors. That meeting has not been scheduled, but is expected to occur in late June or early July.

“We’ve stated as many times as we possibly can … that a thorough study was done on the options,” Frederick said. “What EPA is doing is they’re changing the rules by which byproducts have to be measured in the distribution system and what constitutes compliance with drinking water standards.”

Continue reading "With rising public interest, information session scheduled on chloramines debate" »

May 22, 2012

Council holds public hearing on utility rates

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 22, 2011

The Charlottesville City Council held its first public hearing on new utility rates for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
 
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Sharon O'Hare briefs Council on the utility rates for FY2013
“The average customer in the city of Charlottesville who has all three utilities — gas, water and wastewater — will be able to save about $7.04 a month,” said Sharon O’Hare, the city’s assistant finance director, at Monday night's council meeting.
 
O’Hare said the typical family will pay $24.51 a month for water, about the same as the $24.63 rate under the current structure.
 
Sewer rates will increase 10.44 percent, from $25.10 a month to $27.72 a month. The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority increased its wholesale rates by 12.14 percent to cover capital projects such as the $40 million replacement of the Rivanna Pump Station.
 
Gas rates will decrease 12.25 percent.

Continue reading "Council holds public hearing on utility rates" »

May 10, 2012

Supervisors defer action on alternative septic systems

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 10, 2012

A recent change in Virginia regulations is forcing localities to allow rural property owners to install alternate septic systems, but Albemarle County has to change its rules to follow suit. 
 
“Our ordinance now doesn’t specifically allow for these alternate treatment systems,” said County Attorney Larry Davis. “It requires drain-fields and underground septic systems for development and we are not in compliance with the state mandate that we allow these systems.” 
 
Alternate septic systems use filters such as peat, plastic or sand to purify wastewater. They require less space than conventional septic fields and are regulated by the Virginia Department of Health. 
 
“A large house in the rural area may have a septic field that is 5,000 square feet in size,” said Mark Graham, the county’s director of community development. “There are probably alternative on-site systems for that same house that would fit in 500 square feet.” 
 
The Board of Supervisors was asked Wednesday to consider changes to the zoning to bring Albemarle into compliance. 
 
“The state’s perspective is that these systems are actually better than the conventional systems,” Graham said. “Under the Chesapeake Bay [total maximum daily loads], they’re even looking at going a step further and saying all new sewage systems would have to be one of these systems because of the ability to remove nitrogen.” 
 

Continue reading "Supervisors defer action on alternative septic systems" »

May 08, 2012

City proposes sewer rate increase, water rate decrease

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Charlottesville officials are proposing a slight decrease in water rates for the upcoming fiscal year, but a double-digit increase in the rate for sewer services. 
 
Sewer rates are increasing primarily due to a 12.1 percent increase from the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority,” said Bernard Wray, the city’s director of finance. 
 
Sewer-expenses
Comparison of FY2012 and FY2013 wastewater expenses. (Source: City of Charlottesville)
The sewer rate would increase from $44.70 to $50.25 per 1,000 cubic feet, or a 12.4 percent increase.
To keep the increase from being higher, the city will spend just over $1 million from its rate stabilization fund. Without doing so, the proposed rates would have been $55.23 per 1,000 cubic feet. 
 
The average monthly sewer bill for a household will rise from $25.10 to $27.72, an increase of $2.62 or 10.44 percent. 
 
The increase is in part to help cover $201 million in capital improvements the RWSA will undertake in the next five years. Over two-thirds of the proposed projects are specifically to upgrade the sewer system. 
 

Continue reading "City proposes sewer rate increase, water rate decrease" »

May 03, 2012

Builders prepare for higher water, sewer fees in Albemarle

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 3, 2012

Developers building homes and businesses in Albemarle can expect to pay higher fees over the next several years to connect to the county’s water and sewer system.
 
That fact has raised the concern of Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum.
 
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This chart depicts a history of ACSA connection fees since 2000. Click to enlarge.
“This year’s double-digit increase is on top of a 15 percent increase last year and the [Albemarle County Service Authority] is projecting annual 10 percent increases for the foreseeable future,” Williamson said in an interview.
 
Williamson said the fees will result in higher home prices because developers will pass on the cost to buyers. He warned that if fees keep increasing, builders will not be able to afford to connect.
 
Gary O’Connell, executive director of the ACSA, said he understands developers are not happy about the high fees but added they are necessary to pay for additional capacity, as well as maintenance.
 
“The last thing [developers] want to hear is not being able to have the capacity to handle future growth and developments, so we have to go a step ahead and be ready for that,” O’Connell said in a briefing before the county Board of Supervisors on Wednesday.
 
For example, construction of the Stonefield development was delayed for several years because there was not sufficient sewer capacity.
 

Continue reading "Builders prepare for higher water, sewer fees in Albemarle" »

April 20, 2012

Albemarle plans for water, sewer rate increases

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, April 20, 2012

The Albemarle County Service Authority’s board of directors had its first look Thursday at a proposed $28.2 million budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
 
“We’re seeing increases of less than 4 percent to our water and sewer rates, and that’s after two years of no increases,” said Lisa Breeden, the ACSA’s director of finance.
 
Breeden said the average single-family home’s bill will increase by 3.33 percent.
 
The biggest reason for the increase is an increase in wholesale rates charged by the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority, which sells treated water and sewer service to the ACSA and the city of Charlottesville.
 
In the current year, the RWSA charges the ACSA a wholesale rate of $3.39 per 1,000 gallons. That will increase to $3.46 per 1,000 gallons in fiscal year 2013.
 
For sewer, the RWSA charges the ACSA $3.35 per 1,000 gallons, an amount that will increase to $3.73 per 1,000 gallons.
 
ACSA staff decided to spend some of its reserves to lower the rate increase for its customers.
 
“[The RWSA’s] capital improvement budget is huge and we’ve had to try to level out that increase to our customers,” Breeden said.

Continue reading "Albemarle plans for water, sewer rate increases" »