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Supervisor touts pump and haul sewage option

by Larry S. Chowning

Pinetop District supervisor Fred Crittenden has questioned how much longer the issue of whether to build a proposed sewage treatment plant in Saluda will continue without a definite solution.

During disbursement discussions at the supervisors’ March 5 meeting, Crittenden noted the county is paying a great deal of money for engineering on the proposed sewage plant—which may never be built.  

“We have a solution now that the health department has finally said we can pump and haul [sewage] indefinitely at a whole lot less cost than building a new plant,” Crittenden said.

The county has been planning for the construction of a sewage treatment plant to serve the courthouse and Saluda area ever since the courthouse septic tank/drainfield system was discontinued in 2001. A parking lot for the new courthouse was built on top of the drainfield, making it unusable.

The underground septic holding tank remains, however, and the county has been pumping and hauling sewage from the new courthouse, old courthouse, Extension building, Woodward Building (county offices) and sheriff’s office since 2003. 

Up until last month, county officials apparently thought the county was required to eventually cease its current pump-and-haul system and build a new sewage treatment plant in Saluda. However, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) states in a February letter to county administrator Charles Culley that Middlesex can remain on its permanent pump-and-haul system indefinitely.

At the March 5 supervisors’ meeting, Culley noted that the most recent disbursements for the proposed sewage plant were for engineering costs over several months and include trips to the county by engineering personnel to attend a public hearing in Middlesex. The hearing was held by the Virginia State Water Control Board (VSWCB).

“Every time an engineer has to come to a meeting, it costs us,” said Culley. “You can’t go to a public meeting on the sewer and not have your engineer. It’s like going into a courtroom without your lawyer.”

To date, Middlesex County has spent over $400,000 on land acquisition, planning and engineering costs for the proposed sewage treatment plant, according to county records.

A sewage treatment plant in Saluda would give the county the option of extending sewage lines to Saluda-area businesses and subdivisions.

Culley said he expects a final decision on a permit for the proposed sewage treatment plant from the VSWCB in April. “We will know then whether we can go ahead with this [sewage plant],” he said. “If we can get the permit in the March-April time frame, we will be online by the August-September time frame of next year.”

Crittenden said, “There are so many other things we need to have money for. One of these days, there’s going to be a pipeline to pipe our sewage somewhere else.”
Crump indicated it would be 30 years before a pipeline would become a reality.

Culley said the long-range plan for Urbanna is to pipe its sewage down Town Bridge Road, down Route 17 to Route 33, and then to West Point where a new sewage treatment plant will be built. “That’s a very long range plan,” he said.

The VSWCB will hold a hearing and possibly make a decision on the proposed Saluda sewage plant discharge permit on April 27.

If the VSWCB approves the plant permit, the board of supervisors then will have to decide whether to proceed with the $4.5 million project or continue to pump and haul.

As planned, the proposed sewage plant would discharge its treated effluent in Urbanna Creek and, because of this, many county residents oppose the plant. 

Many opponents favor a land application system of effluent discharge. Other plant opponents favor waiting for a sewage pipeline to be built.

In other matters, supervisors:

  • Voted to seek bids to reseal the runway and replace runway markings at county-owned Hummel Field in Topping. Airport committee member Jim Snider told supervisors the cracks in the runway need repairs before they get worse and cost even more to fix.
  • Voted to renew a maintenance contract with Otis Elevator to continue servicing the elevators at Middlesex High School and the new courthouse.
  • Were thanked for a $50 donation to the Gloucester Mathews Humane Society in the name of Scott Kauffman. A longtime Middlesex Airport Committee member, Kauffman recently resigned from the committee and asked that he not be given a plaque, but rather a donation be given to the Humane Society.

The airport committee also donated $100 to the Humane Society, and a commemorative brick for the new animal shelter will be purchased in Kauffman’s name.

posted 03.11.2009

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