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HRSD planning a new sewage treatment plant

by Tom Chillemi

The wastewater treatment plant that serves Urbanna is 40 years old and is “running out of life,” said Jim Pyne, director of the Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) small communities division.

HRSD’s long-range plan is to build a facility to serve central Middlesex County, said Pyne. Besides the Urbanna wastewater treatment plant, HRSD also operates the plant for the Middle Peninsula Regional Security Center, which is located next to the Middlesex County Courthouse and office complex in Saluda.

Currently, HRSD is re-connecting the county to the jail’s wastewater treatment plant. More than 15 years ago, wastewater from the county courthouse and offices were treated at the jail’s treatment plant.

The county then built a septic/drainfield system that served the county buildings. The drainfield was where the new courthouse was eventually built, and the drainfield was eliminated. Since then, the county has pumped and hauled its wastewater to a sewage lagoon in another county.

Middlesex County was issued a permit in October 2009 to build a 39,900 gallon-per-day wastewater treatment plant but has not begun construction.

The county also purchased about 30 acres just east of Saluda as a possible site for the plant.

Pyne said that he will be writing a “scope of work” for a Middlesex wastewater treatment plant to be submitted to the HRSD Commission at its meeting in October or November. He hopes to start preliminary engineering by the end of 2012.

Nutrient reduction
The Urbanna and jail treatment plants discharge treated wastewater into Urbanna Creek, which is opposed by some residents, including Saluda District supervisor Pete Mansfield. The treated water still contains more nutrients than permitted and HRSD pays about $8,000 a year under a nutrient “trading” program, said Mansfield.

Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in water feed algae and cause “algae blooms,” which block sunlight penetration. When the algae die, the decomposition uses oxygen to the detriment of aquatic life.

Nutrient reduction is expensive and a new wastewater treatment plant would be required to meet stringent regulations, said Pyne.

One option to nutrient removal and discharging into Urbanna Creek is applying the treated wastewater to land through drip irrigation, which Mansfield favors. Instead of taking out the nutrients, let the plants use the nutrients, Mansfield explained. “It’s an obvious answer.”

On Monday, September 17, Mansfield pitched the idea to the Urbanna Town Council, which will consider a resolution next month supporting a drip irrigation proposal over continued discharge into Urbanna Creek.

Pyne said engineers will look at all options for a new treatment plant. “HRSD is in favor of (water) re-use and it will be looked at very seriously.”

However, there are re-use regulations to consider, he added. Plants don’t take up water in winter, or during times of excessive rain, which would require storage of large amounts of water in a lake, or pond.

“Nothing is easy,” Pyne said. “There is no silver bullet.”

posted 09.19.2012

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