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February 26, 2008

RWSA to advertise rate increases; Camelot treatment facility to get $385k

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20080225rwsafull

At their meeting on February 25, 2008, the Board of Directors of the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) voted to approve the preliminary rate schedule for water and wastewater. The rates are included as part of the RWSA’s proposed operating budget. Under state law, the RWSA has to advertise the new rates at least sixty days before a public hearing. The RWSA Board will adopt the budget on May 19, after that public hearing.

The two City representatives to the Board were not present at the February 25 meeting.

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Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20080225-RWSA-full.mp3

On water, the RWSA is proposing to charge the City $2.285 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 2.65 percent over last year. The Albemarle County Service Authority would be charged $2.983 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 2.44 percent. These increased rates help cover the debt service required to pay for the expansion of Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

“That number is a less than what I think a number of people had anticipated,” said Tom Frederick, the executive director of the RWSA.

However, wastewater rates will increase more because the RWSA is planning on several capital upgrades to its sewer infrastructure. On wastewater, the RWSA is proposing to charge the City $2.466 per 1000 gallons, a 10.43% increase. The County’s proposed charge is $2.722 per 1000 gallons, an increase of 10.54%. 

“We continue to be in an upward cycle for capital improvements, driven by a number of things including tighter regulations at the state and federal level, the need to rehabilitate many areas of our system that are wearing out, and the need to provide future planning for capacity needs,” Frederick said.

Frederick said his engineering team is in the middle of identifying the extent of renovations that will need to be made, including study of the various interceptors. A final cost for the state mandated upgrades to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will not be determined until later this year. (See below for details). One other costly task that factors into the higher rates is a project to clean one of two wet-weather storage tanks that have not been cleaned since the plant opened in 1972.

One item cut from the operating budget is a $150,000 bathymetric study of South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to determine the levels of sediment. Frederick said the last time that was conducted was in 2002.

The Board had been expected to consider the Capital Improvement Program at the February meeting, but two new developments forced Frederick to postpone that item until March. First, the RWSA was able to schedule a time to meet with Woolen Mills residents to further discuss odor control mitigation plans, which could be fairly expensive depending on the level of control. Second, the engineering firm responsible for the design of upgrades to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant has significantly raised the cost estimate.

By 2011, Virginia state law requires the plant to be reengineered to reduce the amount of nutrients that are released into the Rivanna River as part of the wastewater treatment process. The firm Hazen and Sawyer is conducting the design for the upgrades, which were estimated to cost $35.4 million when Hazen and Sawyer completed its preliminary engineering work. Now that the design is 30% complete, the cost estimate has been raised to $41 million to reflect both the increased scope of the project as well as engineering choices the RWSA has made.

Uv_2
The upgraded Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant will use ultraviolet rays as a disinfecting tool

Janice Carroll of Hazen and Sawyer presented the revised cost estimates the Board. She said two engineering decisions have contributed to the increase. First, a decision to include ultraviolet rays in the disinfection process will cost an additional $500,000. Second, she said the engineering infrastructure is inadequate and cannot handle additional equipment such as the UV. Carroll gave the RWSA three alternatives ranging from $5.25 million to $6.34 million.

However, a variable could raise the cost even more. According to Carroll, the RWSA had a sharp increase in the amount of ammonia detected in the influent process. While the cause of the problem has not yet been determined, Hazen and Sawyer has concluded that additional treatment capacity could be required to reduce the nutrients. Carroll said an additional aeration basin may be required, which could cost as much as $4 million, but she added that the WQIF grant may cover half of that cost.

Costcomparison
A chart included in Hazen and Sawyer presentation that plots the rising cost of construction

Finally, Carroll said the cost of construction is sky-rocketing, and not just because of rising material costs. Approximately 90 other wastewater treatment plants in the state also need to be upgraded, which Carroll said is causing a shortage of both qualified bidders as well as skilled workers.

More cost estimate will be given when the plant redesign reaches the 60% and 90% marks. The plant redesign will be submitted for state approval at the 90% mark, which could happen in September.  Carroll said she did not expect those benchmarks to yield similar sharp increases. Additional costs for odor mitigation have not been factored into the 30% estimate.

The Moores Creek plant upgrades are not expected to be completed until 2013. The new regulations go into effect on January 1, 2011, and the RWSA will purchase credits

Camelot upgrades

The RWSA Board also approved the allocation of $385,000 in the current CIP for upgrades to the Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant, an aging facility which serves Albemarle’s northern growth area. Robert Wichser, the RWSA’s Director of Water and Wastewater, explained to the Board that the existing facility cannot take any additional new sewer capacity.

The RWSA took control of the facility in the early 1990’s after it was designed and paid for by several landowners in the area. Since taking over the plant, RWSA has made two changes to its operations in order to stay within state guidelines. First, a decision was made to convert one of the two treatment “trains” into a holding tank in order to accommodate surges in use during peak times. Second, techniques added last year to improve the treatment also reduced the capacity.

The Albemarle County Service Authority (ACSA) has agreed to contribute the funds to provide for additional capacity so that certain projects in the area can go forward. These include expansions of the Briarwood subdivision, the North Fork Research Park, and Wendell Wood’s commercial offices near the National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC). The bulk of the money will go to construct a ‘flow equalization basin.”

However, these upgrades will only be temporary, and Wichser said Camelot will be decommissioned as soon as the ACSA completes work on a new regional pump station to transport wastewater to the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Other buildings and developments not already tied into Camelot, like the proposed Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) facility adjacent to NGIC and the North Pointe development, will be expected to wait for the new pump station.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

00:54 - Executive Director Tom Frederick's monthly report
02:47 - Discussion of the proposed operating budget for FY2008-09
12:30 - Update from Hazen and Sawyer on upgrades of Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
36:50 - Budget request for $385,000 to increase sewer capacity at Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant

Sean Tubbs

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