More information from the recent community meetings can be found online here:

By Brian Wheeler

Dexter Auction

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority

is soliciting citizen feedback on proposals to upgrade a major

sewer pump station

in Charlottesville’s

Woolen Mills neighborhood

. Since 1981, residents there have dealt with the smells and sounds of wastewater treatment adjacent to the entrance of Riverside Park.

The RWSA says it needs to increase the capacity of the pump station to improve reliability and protect the environment. Residents want their concerns about the $25 million to $37 million project’s location and appearance factored into the planning process.

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Allison Ewing has been a Woolen Mills resident since 2000 and she lives next door to the current pump station.

“We are getting sewage from neighborhoods as far away as Forest Lakes. … They say [the upgrade] is not needed for growth, but for infiltration [of water], but it is still coming largely from the county,” said Ewing. “We feel there is a fairness issue here — we shouldn’t have to bear the burden of continued county growth.”

At a meeting last week at the Woolen Mills Chapel, RWSA staff and an engineer from the firm designing the pump station briefed about 15 residents who gathered to learn more about the project.

Janice R. Carroll, an engineer with

Hazen and Sawyer

, said that the

Rivanna Pump Station

, which serves parts of the city, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia, is currently under capacity.

Janice R. Carroll,

Hazen and Sawyer

“Its function is to collect all the wastewater that drains by gravity … and to pick it up and pump it to the

Moores Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant

,” Carroll said. “The driver for this project … is the fact that under wet weather conditions, rain or snow, the system cannot handle all of the flow in it, so there are currently overflows from the collection system.”

Thomas L. Frederick Jr.

, the RWSA’s executive director, said that in dry weather conditions about 6 million gallons a day of wastewater flows into the underground pump station. The upgraded facility would handle up to 53 million gallons a day, more than twice its current peak capacity.

“It’s not big enough to handle the peak wet weather flow. It really is about the rain and not about [new] development,” Frederick said. “It’s about handling the rainwater and it’s about the environment. It’s about keeping the sewage out of the river.”

Four sites have been under consideration for the upgraded pump station and each has a preliminary “concept level” cost estimate:

The RWSA has held two community meetings to get neighborhood input. Frederick said he wants to narrow down the list of options being considered for further study before the next RWSA board meeting on Feb 22.

Frederick emphasized that the RWSA had not selected a preferred alternative. However, he told the neighbors that they were prepared to eliminate Concept B, in large part because of the realization there was an old cemetery nearby that would present a significant obstacle.

“When we consider all of the stakeholders we serve … we are suggesting tonight that Concept A remain on the table to be studied further,” Frederick said. “We have identified the key strength being its low cost, but there is equally a key weakness, which you are familiar with, which is the view.”

The Concept A location would require a taller structure to move some equipment above the river’s flood stage level. Longtime residents like Ewing said after last week’s meeting that the pump station needed a home outside a residential neighborhood.

“We moved here knowing the pump station was there, but it’s really in the wrong place in a neighborhood, ” Ewing said. “One of the great features of Woolen Mills is access to the park and the river, and at the scale of what they are describing [in Concept A], it would really impact the aesthetics of the neighborhood.”

Robin Hanes moved to Woolen Mills about three years ago.

“As a member of the neighborhood, this hangs over us and we are already putting up with a lot with the pump station as it is,” Hanes said. “It is so clear the leaning they have towards the less expensive option, yet we don’t believe their promises that it won’t have noise and smells. We are afraid it will be an eyesore three stories high.”

In an effort to demonstrate the RWSA’s flexibility, Frederick shared what he called a hybrid proposal that would keep the existing pump station in operation for normal flows, but pair it with a second station at the site of Concept C or D to handle wet weather flows.

“We are trying to be creative here,” Frederick said. “We are trying to figure out how to turn weaknesses into strengths.”

At the end of the meeting, neighborhood leaders pledged to collect additional feedback from more residents for the RWSA’s consideration.

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