Chesterfield pursing water treatment plant a mile west of PG location

PRINCE GEORGE – By this time next year, it is likely that Prince George will have a key permit that will allow the county to move forward with drawing water from the Appomattox River, which will aid in supporting the county’s key growth sectors, including business and industry in future years.

In a report given by county utilities director Frank Haltom this month, he detailed, “barring any unusual circumstances,” Prince George should receive its water intake permit from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality by December of next year, which would allow the county to move forward in the future with the development of a water treatment plant along the Appomattox River, which has been discussed in past meetings of the county board of supervisors.

According to Haltom, the county submitted their permit application during the spring of this year following a multi-agency meeting in March that included the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries that focused on discussing aquatic species of concern that could be impacted by a water intake system along the Appomattox River and defining design parameters to limit its impact, with Haltom confirming the Atlantic Sturgeon being at least one of those species.

“This multi-department review takes about a year to complete so, we expected some comments along the way but, at this point, we have not received any comments other than that they have already begun drafting a permit, which is good news,” Haltom remarked. “So, no news is good news. When you don’t receive comments and they are drafting the permit, that’s great news.”

As part of the process, Haltom detailed, during the upcoming winter months, Virginia DEQ is expected to issue a public notice regarding the county’s intent to draw water from the Appomattox River to garner comments from the community, along with other water companies. In Prince George, water is provided by the county through the Appomattox River Water Authority, a multi-jurisdictional authority that includes the county, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, and Colonial Heights and, in some portions of the county, Virginia American Water.

If that notice draws “significant public response,” the utilities director said a public hearing might be warranted.

After receiving comments from the agency, the county’s consultant, Dewberry will provide responses to address all concerns, likely paving the way for the issuance of a permit to Prince George County to draw water from the river by the end of next year.

Discussions of boosting the county’s infrastructural portfolio have been ongoing for the last several years but grown in volume over the two years as supervisors seek to address water and sewer shortfalls in order to attract business and industry to Prince George County, while also charting the county’s own future in regards to service and reducing its reliance on regional authorities, such as ARWA for water, or South Central Wastewater Authority for wastewater treatment.

An aerial view of the Appomattox River Water Authority complex in southern Chesterfield County. (ARWA)

Specifically regarding water, during a summer 2018 work session, supervisors expressed concern about the possible ramifications of Chesterfield County, a majority user of water within ARWA, purchasing the authority outright, converting the other member localities, who each have one vote within the authority regarding various decisions and operations, into customers of Chesterfield County’s water system. That proposal never moved forward as a number of member localities’ boards of supervisors and city councils voiced opposition. Had it proceeded to a vote, all of ARWA’s member jurisdictions would have had to approve the sale, with any dissenting votes squashing the deal.

For county officials, the prospect of the then-proposed purchase by Chesterfield was concerning when it came to how such a transaction would impact Prince George economically, with Haltom remarking at that 2018 work session, should they have acquired ARWA, Chesterfield County “would control economic development in the region,” given how vital water capacity and access can be for prospective businesses, especially in certain industrial sectors, such as food production.

During that year, Haltom presented information that walked through a proposal to build a water treatment plant in the county that would serve to support Southpoint Business Park and the county’s overall future growth forward, located just north of Riverside Regional Jail off River Road. At that time, it was revealed that the estimated cost to build the plant, $59 million, would be higher than the county paying for a majority of its water coming from either ARWA – $30 million – or Virginia American Water – $35 million.

Additionally, when looking at county-provided data that detailed the cost of 3 million gallons per day over the course of 20 years, an ARWA-majority supply would cost the county an estimated $69 million, while a Virginia American Water-majority supply would total $74 million. County-supplied water would be slightly higher than a Virginia American Water majority, coming in at $76 million during the same time frame.

While no plans have been formally announced to build a water treatment plant in the near future, Supervisor Marlene Waymack raised the question of, if approved, how long the county’s water intake permit would be valid for, with Haltom confirming it would be valid for a decade once received.

“Typically, once you have the permit, they are good for ten years,” he said. “Now, if you don’t do anything in the first ten years and you happen to apply again, you’re likely to be looked at a little bit harder so, we want to make sure we are doing something within those ten years if we are going to apply for this permit. They are going to want to see something moving, otherwise we are tying up that resource and they don’t want us to tie it up because other people may want to use it.”

According to documents, one of those people could be Chesterfield County, again.

Roughly a month before Prince George submitted their permit application package to the state, Chesterfield’s utilities department proposed building a water treatment plant in an industrial area near Ashton Park Drive in the county along the Appomattox River, roughly a mile west of the general area of Prince George’s proposed water intake site near Appomattox River Regional Park.

Minutes from the Chesterfield’s board of supervisors meeting in March of this year saw utilities director George Hayes explain the proposed project would provide the county with “safe and reliable water for the county for the next 100 years,” adding that the addition of a fourth water source “will provide additional flexibility to meet the long-term water demands as the county’s population continues to grow and expand.”

Supervisors approved moving forward with the permit process and other steps related to the design of a water treatment facility in Chesterfield during that mid-March meeting.

In Prince George, Haltom explained some form of development needs to be underway once the county has the permit by the end of next year in order to prevent alterations to what the county can draw from the river, should others want to utilize the river.

“If we are not using it and other people are making requests, they may say, ‘No, you’re not getting it this time,’ or reduce the amount [of water] that we can actually withdraw.”

Haltom expects a public notice regarding the county’s request for a water intake permit to go out in the next few months, thus allowing for community and waterworks comments.

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
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