Sewage plant hearing postponed until study done
by Tom Chillemi
On Monday, July 20, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) granted Middlesex County’s request to postpone action on a permit for the proposed Saluda wastewater treatment plant.
The State Water Control Board (SWCB) was scheduled to consider the permit application on Thursday, July 23.
The county wants more time to determine the feasibility of “land application,” which would apply treated wastewater to land instead of discharging it into Urbanna Creek.
“The Hampton Roads Sanitation District (HRSD) has been studying the potential of land application of our discharge along with the discharge from the Town of Urbanna,” states the letter from county administrator Charles Culley to the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).
Middlesex County has applied for re-issuance of a permit to build a 39,900-gallon-per-day treatment plant, which is expandable, to serve the courthouse, county offices and parts of Saluda.
In April, the application was withdrawn from the SWCB’s meeting agenda at the county’s request to give HRSD time to study the possibility of land application.
Jim Pyne, chief of HRSD’s Small Communities Division, said a “draft” report of the land application study was completed June 30. The report has not been seen or approved by the HRSD Commission and has not been released to the public, said Pyne.
The HRSD Commission will consider the report when it meets on Tuesday, July 28.
Pyne said HRSD currently does not have a treatment plant that uses land application, and he is encouraged about such a possibility. Pyne said the land application study was done by a consultant from South Carolina.
Although Middlesex is technically part of HRSD, it has been working independently with a consultant, who has designed a treatment plant that is proposed about a quarter-mile east of the Middlesex Courthouse on 30 acres. The treated wastewater (effluent) would be pumped back toward the courthouse, where it would then be discharged into a ravine behind the sheriff’s office. The ravine flows into Urbanna Creek.
If the county joins with HRSD for the proposed plant, the costs will be spread over the entire HRSD system, which runs south from Middlesex into North Carolina, encompassing all of greater Hampton Roads, including Norfolk, said Pyne.
Pyne said the Urbanna plant, which HRSD owns and operates, could be combined with a Saluda plant in phases.
The Urbanna plant has a permit to discharge 100,000 gallons per day into Urbanna Creek. It was built in the early 1970s and soon will need expensive upgrades in order to meet new limits for nutrient reduction.
With land application, nutrients in the effluent are taken up as fertilizer by plants, including trees, which also are irrigated by the treated wastewater.
Robert Crump, chairman of the Middlesex County Board of Supervisors, said this week that all board members agreed with his idea to postpone action on the permit. Crump said he contacted each member by phone.
“HRSD is putting up funds and time and effort to do the (land application) study,” said Crump. “They are really helping us out and helping the environment too. They are doing all they can and we want to do all we can to help them. If the report is positive, I think we may be on to something.”
Supervisors Crump and Jack Miller, along with Culley, toured the land application treatment plant in Westmoreland County. “I was encouraged by what I saw, and I can see the potential,” said Crump.
Crump said he’s been told that land application can be done on as few as 50 acres and in woodlands.
With land application, the wastewater is processed and stored in a tank and applied to a field or woodlands to fertilize and irrigate, said Crump.
“They (HRSD) are best suited for what we’re trying to do, especially in tidal areas,” said Crump. “There isn’t anyone better.”
Curtis J. Linderman, water permit manager with DEQ, wrote in an email on Monday that the Saluda plant permit will be scheduled for consideration at the fall 2009 meeting of the SWCB. The specific date has not been established, but will be made available on the DEQ website (http://www.deq.virginia.gov) at least 30 days prior to the meeting date, Linderman wrote.
The SWCB meets every other month, so the earliest it would consider the Saluda sewage plant permit is late September.