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April 29, 2009

Winning bid for wastewater plant upgrade 18.5% under earlier cost estimate

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hazen & Sawyer's final design for the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment's Enhanced Nutrient Removal project

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority’s Board of Directors has awarded a bid to an Ohio firm to upgrade the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to reduce the flow of nutrients into the watershed and to address odor concerns. The RWSA Board approved the award to Adams Robinson Enterprises of Dayton, OH at their meeting on April 27, 2009.

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Of twelve bids received, Adams Robinson submitted the lowest bid at $40.3 million, 18.5% below the engineer’s “probable estimate” of $49.5 million for the project. Officials with Hazen and Sawyer, the engineering firm that designed the upgrades, recommended that the RWSA accept the bid. Construction will start later this year and will be completed in the winter of 2013. The RWSA Board also voted to pay $3.3 million to Hazen & Sawyer over the next four years to oversee construction.

The upgrades are necessary in order to make the RWSA compliant with the Chesapeake Bay Act, which sought to reduce the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous that enter the watershed and thus the bay. The presence of these organic materials can lead to algae blooms, which reduce the amount of oxygen available to fish and other aquatic creatures.

Three-fifths of the project’s funding is expected to come from Virginia’s Water Quality Improvement Fund (WQIF). The RWSA signed an agreement in June 2007 that allocated $15.6 million in WQIF for the project and now the RWSA is asking the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which administers the WQIF, to amend the agreement to raise the amount of funding to nearly $21.8 million, or 60% of the winning bid.

Betty Mooney of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan demanded to know how much nitrogen and phosphorous was actually being released into the watershed, and wanted to know what the RWSA would do if it did not get the funding from WQIF.

RWSA Operations Director Robert Wichser (left) and Finance and Administration Director Lonnie Mead (right)

Bob Wichser, Operations Director for the RWSA, responded that the Moores Creek treatment plant is currently releasing between 14 and 26 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of nitrogen. By January 2011, the plant will be required to lower that figure to 6 mg/L to stay compliant. Phosphorous levels must be reduced from a current range of 3.5 to 5.5 mg/L to .5 mg/L. The upgrades are designed to allow the plant to reduce nitrogen levels to 5 mg/L, which means that the RWSA may be able to create a new revenue stream by selling pollution credits.

On the funding issue, Wichser said the WQIF funding was viable and expressed confidence the state would meet its obligations.

Other news from the RWSA:

  •  The RWSA Board will hold a retreat in June to welcome the two new elected officials who were added by the City and the County this spring. Councilor Holly Edwards was named to represent the City, but the County has not yet selected a Supervisor to join her. RWSA Counsel Kurt Krueger said they could be seated in time for the May 18 meeting.
  • On the topic of the RFP for a dredging feasibility study for the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, Betty Mooney charged that the Albemarle County Service Authority was stalling the RFP “to prevent the community from knowing the cost of dredging.”


  • 01:00 – Meeting called to order by Mike Gaffney, Chair of RWSA
  • 02:15 – Public comments about water conservation numbers from Dede Smith of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan
  • 05:07 – Public comments from Betty Mooney of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan about the need to get an RF
  • 08:54 – Public comments from Richard Lloyd claiming that the four boards subverts the will of the public
  • 11:23 – Discussion of the consent agenda
  • 11:45 – City Manager Gary O’Connell asks to pull item E from consent agenda
  • 12:17 – Bob Wichser explains the objectives of the Moores Creek WWTP upgrades
  • 17:45 – Discussion of how to prepare the two new members of the RWSA Board
  • 19:45 – Charlottesville Public Works Director Judy Mueller asks for a timeline for all major capital projects planned by the RWSA


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