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.

Meetings (laughing)

Rivanna Pump Station
The existing Rivanna Pump Station is in close proximity to houses in the Woolen Mills.


Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone. For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth, But has trouble enough of its own.–E. W. Wilcox

There are different types of laughter: etiquette laughter; nervous laughter; silent laughter; belly laughter; cruel laughter. Are any of these appropriate in a public meeting?
Political bodies have different “laughter cultures”. Locally, I don’t hear the Board of Supervisors or the City Council laughing but the Charlottesville Planning Commission likes to laugh. The local kings of laughter are the members of the Albemarle County Service Authority.

A bit of levity can lift the mood in a long meeting. Everyone loves a laugh. But laughter at the public’s expense, laughter where the citizens are the butt of the joke, this would seem to be inappropriate emanating from public servants. Audio clips are posted below, please listen for yourself and listen for the laughs. Is it proper?

Mini-Rotunda
Buy & Relocate
Convenience & View
Trailer-Mounted Pump Station

Sound bites are misleading. Every interview subject fears sound bites, with good reason. Statements are abstracted from context and standing alone, take on an entirely different meaning.
The bites here can be heard in context on Charlotteville Tomorrow’s website.

Mini-Rotunda is about 12:20 in to the 3/17/2011 ACSA meeting.
Buy & Relocate is approximately 52 minutes into the 5/19/2011 meeting
Convenience & View is 16:20 in to the May Meeting
Trailer-Mounted Pump Station is approximately 58 minutes in to the May meeting

Because of the limited utility of sound-bites to convey the essence of a meeting, I heartily endorse our local C-Span, Charlotteville Tomorrow. Charlottesville Tomorrow provides gavel to gavel audio coverage of important local meetings. I urge you to support this critical community service. I encourage you to be involved with local boards, commissions and legislative bodies. Serve on them, attend the meetings. Our collective quality of life rests on the shoulders of an engaged public.
(All audio presented here was recorded by Charlottesville Tomorrow)

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.