By Brian Wheeler


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Officials from the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County were unable to agree Tuesday on how to narrow the list of study sites for the location of a new

sewer pump station

. Thus, in separate votes by the

Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

board, they ultimately decided to study every plan still on the table.

Despite operating a joint water and sewer authority, three studies were approved by split votes and each will be paid for by a different body. City Councilor

David Brown

and Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

, the two elected officials on the RWSA board, both said there were some options they couldn’t support and that their locality wouldn’t pay to study.

Albemarle Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd

“If you want to spend money on an option that we think is just not going anywhere … knock yourselves out,” Brown said. “We have to work together to find a good solution.”

“I want to do that,” Boyd responded. “But I’d like to have all the information on the table for us to make a reasonable decision.”

Brown ultimately supported the investigation of moving the pump station across the Rivanna River, an option the Albemarle supervisors have said they will not support. Boyd voted against having the RWSA evaluate the cross-river location.

The capacity of the

pump station

is being increased to improve its reliability and protect the environment. Residents in the Woolen Mills neighborhood have lobbied the RWSA for the past six months, raising concerns about the $25 million to $37 million project’s location and appearance and arguing that a new station would never be placed in a historic neighborhood today.

Listen using player above or download the podcast


Download 20110524-RWSA

Thomas L. Frederick, Jr., RWSA Executive Director

Thomas L. Frederick Jr.

, the RWSA’s executive director, acknowledged the board had some difficult decisions to make. He said that the RWSA’s balanced approach — fixing pipes to minimize the infiltration of stormwater in the sewer system, with the addition of new treatment capacity — was an industry standard being taken by communities around the nation.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t tough decisions,” Frederick said. “Sometimes, there are no ideal options. Sometimes, that’s what life hands us, but we have to do the best we can to make the best decision possible.”

After Tuesday’s vote, not accounting for any economies of scale, the RWSA could pay engineering firm Hazen and Sawyer up to about $430,000 to study three pump station locations known as Options A, D and E.


Albemarle County Service Authority

will pay about $122,000 to have Option A studied. It would upgrade the pump station at its current location in the Woolen Mills neighborhood adjacent to Riverview Park.

The City Council said at

a meeting earlier this month

that it would not support Option A. The RWSA voted 4-3 to study Option A with Brown and the other city representatives all voting against.

Gary O’Connell

, the ACSA’s executive director, and Liz Palmer, an ACSA board member, both called for Hazen and Sawyer to evaluate creative options for placing as much of the new pump station underground as feasible.

“There is no really good solution on the table here at all. I think sometimes we lose track of why we are doing this,” Palmer said. “We have been dumping sewage into the Rivanna River in wet weather events for decades and now we are faced with fixing it.”

“At the ACSA board of directors we asked for Option A to stay on the table with challenge to the consultants to … put as much underground as possible [and] stay on [RWSA] property,” Palmer said.

The RWSA will pay about $122,000 to study Option D, a new location for the pump station at a location across the Rivanna River in Albemarle. The supervisors have said they will not support Option D, which is on land in the Pantops area owned by Albemarle and land owned by State Farm Insurance.

As a third and final option, the city of Charlottesville will pay about $184,605 to study Option E, a new idea proposed by residents of Woolen Mills. It involves drilling a 2,000-foot-long tunnel to extend the sewer pipe to a new pump station location closer to the Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant.

While still in Woolen Mills, the tunnel approach avoids digging a 30-foot-deep trench through the backyards of about five homes in what was known as Option C. Near its end, the tunnel is expected to be 90 feet below ground, at which point the pump station would lift the material to Moores Creek for treatment.

Boyd and County Executive Tom Foley voted against studying Option E, but that was because the motion by Brown coupled it with a study of Option D across the river.

Victoria Dunham, president of the Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association, said after the meeting that she was pleased to see multiple options being explored.

“I am thrilled they are going to study Options D and E,” Dunham said. “Option A won’t work because the electrical equipment [for the pump station] needs to be above ground.”

Interested in what we're working on next? Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.