By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer
The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors received a final briefing on the RK&K report on Zion Crossroads water infrastructure on Feb. 18. RK&K didn’t change the recommendation to build a $8 million water system, flowing from the Department of Corrections (DOC) women’s facility on Route 250. The county already has an agreement with DOC to buy water wholesale and treat sewer at the correctional facility.
The supervisors’ work session was designed to determine a path to move forward to bring water to Zion Crossroads. Opinions ran strong regarding the level of infrastructure investment required and when it should be put into place.
“DOC, by itself, doesn’t stand alone,” said Tony O’Brien (Rivanna District). The problem is DOC is a “short-term” solution, by RK&K’s opinion said an official from the company. It only supplies enough water for initial growth.
A mid-term solution is to supplement the DOC water source with wells or another water system. The long-term solution is to utilize Fluvanna’s portion of the James River Water Authority (JRWA) with Louisa County. DOC only gives up to 75,000 gallons of water a day. Louisa currently uses 140,000 gallons a day in the Zion Crossroads area on its side.
“[DOC] gives us an opportunity to start-up at a low cost, and we have options,” said Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra District). O’Brien countered DOC is a starting point but it isn’t a sufficient quantity for projected growth. He said supervisors will have to plan what’s next after 75,000 gallons is used.
Louisa is planning on a facility in Ferncliff to treat raw water from the JRWA. O’Brien wants to work with Louisa to be a partner in that production and thinks the ability to work with the county’s neighbors is closing this year. “In my opinion, it would be pretty foolhardy not to participate in that,” said O’Brien.
But the county’s debt load continues to be an issue. County officials are currently planning on adding to the debt to pay for the $8 million initial water system. There is potential to save some money here and there by shrinking the main water line length and carefully planning construction vendors.
“We are already $97 million in debt. When is it going to end?” said Don Weaver (Cunningham District). O’Brien asked how much of that $97 million was to help the lower tax rate. The consensus was none. Most of it is wrapped up in school buildings.
“I can tell you, as a business owner, if you aren’t going to invest in where you are going, you are screwed,” said O’Brien.
Chairwoman Mozell Booker (Fork Union District) repeatedly said during the course of the night she wanted water and soon. “We’ve got to narrow them down to options…otherwise we can be sitting here another 20 years,” said Booker.
Probably the easiest part of the solution is treated water. The hard part is sewer. Putting treated sewer into Virginia’s water ways can be a difficult equation with Department of Environmental Control (DEQ). DEQ limits what can be sent back into the watershed, especially as the health of the Chesapeake Bay is continually a topic of conversation.
Ullenbruch said Louisa doesn’t want to treat more sewer. DOC only allows sewer treatment of 100,000 gallons a day. “The cost of that, that’s the elephant in the room,” said Ullenbruch.
Options for Fluvanna to treat sewer is to see if DOC can expand its currently facility but it sends treated sewer into the Mechunk Creek. Getting re-permitted for that might prove too difficult.
Alternative drip fields sewer could be an option, but if the county supplements the DOC treated water with wells, the alternative drip fields cannot feed back into the wells.
The county could work on gaining ‘credits’ by improving other county waterways or even recruit a business that could use treated sewer for operations.
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Photo Credits: Fluvanna County, VA Department of Environmental Quality