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Council wants creek protected

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An aerial view of Urbanna Creek looking toward the Rappahannock River.  (Photo by Mike Kucera)

by Tom Chillemi

Urbanna Creek has been nominated for “Tier 3” status as an exceptional waterway of Virginia.

The Urbanna Town Council approved a formal resolution at its April 20 meeting asking the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to grant Urbanna Creek the Tier 3 designation, which carries certain protections.

Tier 3 status “protects (bodies of water) from future degradation and pollution,” David C. Whitehurst of DEQ told the audience at a public hearing on the matter on April 20.

New discharges and expansion of wastewater treatment plant discharges are not permitted in Tier 3 bodies of water, said Whitehurst. He explained that if the proposed Saluda wastewater treatment plant were operating when and if Tier 3 status is granted to Urbanna Creek, the plant could not expand.

The Tier 3 status also would prevent expansion of the Urbanna treatment plant and the regional jail treatment plant.

The Tier 3 process takes 18 to 24 months and would involve three state public comment periods, said Whitehurst. He added that a study would need to be done by DEQ to determine if Urbanna Creek is eligible for Tier 3 status.

A common concern of residents about Tier 3 protection is that it would inhibit growth in some areas because water cannot be withdrawn or discharged into Tier 3 waterways, said Whitehurst.

There are about 30 Tier 3 waterways and most are located in the western part of Virginia, Whitehurst said.

During council’s public hearing, Urbanna Creek resident Pete Mansfield said, “I’m in favor of anything to improve water quality.”

Alana Courtney of Urbanna said, “I’m proud of you all (on council). It might be late, but better late than never.”

Kerry Robusto commented that all tributaries of Urbanna Creek should have Tier 3 status.

Council member Janet Smith noted that town council recently approved a resolution to have no more wastewater treatment plants discharge into Urbanna Creek.

Smith pointed out that once a body of water has a wastewater plant discharge, it is easier to get other discharge permits for new treatment plants. The DEQ prefers to discharge into a body of water that already has an effluent discharge.

“If we don’t start somewhere, we will end up with all kinds of effluent because it can’t be put in the [Rappahannock] river,” said Smith. “We have to do this; it’s not an option.”

posted 05.13.2009

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