Collateral damage

sign by Max Frazee
This afternoon the RWSA Board of Directors will continue to address the issue of sanitary sewer overflows (SSO’s) occurring in their transmission system secondary to failed infrastructure (leaky pipes) that are part of the collection system.
Fixing the pipes is the expensive option, 400 million to 2 billion dollars.
Building a new sewage pumping plant is the quick fix for SSO’s and comparatively inexpensive (labor and materials cost 25-37 million dollars).
The concern of central Virginians is the collateral damage, the loss of value to our region. Pumping plant plan pricetags discussed to date do not reflect collateral damage costs, damage to the social, economic and cultural fabric at the foot of Monticello Mountain, impacts to a city park, the primary gateway to the Rivanna River, impacts to a national historic district and impacts to a neighborhood.
The overall cost of the project, to date, has not reflected the cost of locating the pumping station in “the wrong place”.
The cost of building a new 53 million gallon per day pumping plant must include the costs to mitigate its calamitous side effects, costs not reflected in the “materials and labor” estimate.

Mr. Jefferson’s River

Rivanna River
In 2005 the RWSA “discovered” that in wet weather events leaky pipes and insufficient “transmission capacity” meant that they were losing around 20-25 million gallons of sewage. Where was this liquor going? Into Mr. Jefferson’s river.
Some leaky pipe fixing was begun, 25% of the leaks are slated to be fixed by 2020.
But, that leaves a whole lot of mixed liquids and suspended solids (yeck) burping into the waters of the State of Virginia.

Tonight, Charlottesville City Council holds a public hearing on the subject of how best to deal with this environmental catastrophe.
From the beginning, RWSA has solicited input from the public, “give us your ideas. Think outside the box”. The public has responded with some good ideas which are generally dismissed.
For instance, the Public said “fix the leaky pipes”. Nope, too expensive, no one in the sewage industry tries to fix all the leaky pipes.

One of the RWSA fix options (they call them concepts) was dismissed by City Council, that concept was to locate a massive sewage pumping plant (53mgd capacity) in Riverview Park, the Community’s primary gateway to the river.
Now RWSA is advocating locating the pumping plant at the foot of Monticello Mountain, 6/10ths of a mile from Mr. Jefferson’s crib, this plan is known as option D.

Locating the pumping plant on the northwest face of Monticello Mountain would require the destruction of the riverine environment visible on the left side of the river above. All those trees have to go.

The public has suggested option E. which avoids destroying environmental resources and threatening the architectural resources of the Woolen Mills Village National Historic District. Option E doesn’t threaten anyone or anything. Option E is a bored pathway, in existing easements, to the Moore’s Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Option E will be expensive. It is cheaper to leave the burden of transmitting the sewage from 43 square miles of County, City and University land squarely on the shoulders of property owners and residents in the Woolen Mills.

What will City Council recommend? What will the RWSA Board vote for?

We long for the day when fact based decision making trumps politics and when our community is reconnected with its River. Voting for option E would bring that day closer.

Critical slopes


Charlottesville Planning Commission and City Council have a joint public hearing tomorrow night regarding updating the Critical Slopes ordinance. A unique opportunity for members of the public (Developers and residents) to weigh in on what our City will look like ten years down the road.
If you are a player of meeting bingo, the sustainability box will be filled in early.

Arbor Day

“A society grows great when old people plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”


Members of the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards, the Charlottesville Tree Commission, Charlottesville Parks and Recreation and Mia the Dog planted a quercus bicolor in Tonsler Park this morning celebrating Arbor Day.

Martha Warring, forester with the VDOF addressed the assembly, marking Charlottesville’s 5th year as a “tree-city”, a citation granted by the Arbor Day Foundation.


Trees start small, they get big. This quercus falcata (Southern Red Oak) is located in the City’s Oakwood Cemetery.
If you have a tree you’d like to nominate for the Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards “treasured tree” program contact them.

South of the Tracks

left bank of Moore's Creek

Sec. 10-71. Duty to retain or establish stream buffer.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this article, any land adjacent to the following listed waters, shall provide buffers for the purposes of retarding runoff, preventing erosion, and filtering nonpoint source pollution from runoff:
(1) Rivanna River;
(2) Moore’s Creek;
(3) Meadow Creek.
(b) A required stream buffer shall be no less than one hundred (100) feet wide on each side of the stream, which buffer
shall be measured horizontally from the top of the stream bank.–CHO Minicode

North of the tracks we are spending millions to restore Meadow Creek. South of the tracks, on Moore’s Creek, the poor man’s creek, is there a mitigation plan, any plan? Put in the new sewer pipe, grind up the trees. That is that?

Jack Aubrey would be proud


Dawn on the cul de sac. No traffic. Leaving at 700hrs for Charlottesville.

Tonight the Charlottesville Planning Commission continues their discussion regarding the protection of critical slopes and green infrastructure. The health of the Rivanna River watershed and its inhabitants is affected by this discussion. Consider attending, the discussion will be in a “workshop” format, public input is encouraged.