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County’s permit to pump & haul has no expiration

by Tom Chillemi

Middlesex County’s offices and the courthouse in Saluda could continue to pump and haul their wastewater indefinitely, according to a letter from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) dated February 11, 2009.

The letter from Patricia M. Duttry, VDH Environmental Health Supervisor, was written in response to a letter from Middlesex County Administrator Charles Culley Jr., who was seeking clarification on the county’s permit to pump sewage that is collected from the Middlesex Courthouse and county offices and hauled to a remote disposal site.

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Pumping and hauling wastewater from the Middlesex County Courthouse and county offices could continue on a long-term basis, says the Virginia Health Department. However, the proposed wastewater treatment plant is being designed to serve the Saluda area, as well as county buildings, and this can only be done with central sewer, noted Middlesex County Administrator Charles Culley Jr. Above, an employee of Church View Septic pumps out the holding tank at the courthouse.  (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

Culley’s letter of January 27, 2009 asked Duttry “whether the county could remain on its permanent pump and haul situation without building and connecting to a new system, be it drainfield or central (sewer) system.”

Duttry’s response letter states that the “Permanent Pump and Haul Agreement and General Permit” that was granted July 7, 2003 “includes no restrictions on the length of time that the county can conduct pump and haul operations.

“So long as funds are appropriated to carry out pump and haul so that overflow of sewage onto the ground surface, back up of sewage into plumbing fixtures, or pollution of ground water (are) avoided, the pump and haul operation is a safe, adequate, and proper means of sewage disposal,” wrote Duttry.

She also notes that another building could be added to the pump and haul plan, “whether it is owned by the county or others.” The county would have to apply to the health department for an expanded storage permit.

Culley said on Monday that the wastewater treatment plant is being proposed to serve not only the county courthouse and offices, but also the Saluda area. “It’s an economic issue to provide opportunity for business growth that you can’t have without sewer.”

If pumping and hauling were only to serve the courthouse and county offices, “it probably would be a good option,” Culley added.

Disposal options

Duttry’s letter states, “The county is free to determine the best solution for its sewage treatment and disposal needs given its circumstance and future plans. That solution may be to continue permanent pump and haul, to pursue a Sewage Disposal System Construction Permit for repair or replacement of the previously used soil-based system through the Health Department, or to pursue permits for a treatment facility and discharge through the (Virginia) Department of Environmental Quality.”

The pump and haul issue came to light after Middlesex County applied for a permit to build a 39,900 gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant a quarter-mile east of Saluda at a current estimated cost of $4.5 million due to the economic downturn.

Opponents have said that it is cheaper to pump and haul sewage than build the treatment plant. It costs the county 12 cents per gallon to have about 4,000 gallons of sewage a week pumped and hauled. That equals $25,000 a year.

The county’s consultant estimated the cost to run the proposed treatment plant is $75,000 to $100,000 a year.

A permit allowing the proposed treatment plant to discharge into Urbanna Creek is pending before the State Water Control Board, which is expected to consider the matter on April 27.

posted 02.26.2009

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