Sewage District Would Not Inject Treated Water Into Local Aquifers

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By Linda Cicoira — Accomack supervisors informally agreed Wednesday that getting the Hampton Roads Sanitation District involved in local sewage operations is vital to the Eastern Shore.

“This is an extremely important infrastructure,” Supervisor Robert Crockett said of expanding the sewage line south to places like Exmore. “This is a first step of a very, very important infrastructure. It opens up the door to address Chincoteague. I can’t imagine not wanting to be a part of this.” 

Crockett said expansion could cost $24 million. The HRSD has tentatively
“offered to pay for that investment … I can’t stress enough how important it is.”

The promise will not come with HRSD using its technology to inject treated water back to local aquifers, members of the Eastern Shore Ground Water Committee were told Tuesday.

“It was really interesting how they were treating water to a quality that could be put back in the aquifer,” Grayson Chesser, a supervisor and committee member, said later.  “But it really didn’t pertain to us.”

“Onancock got a lot of grants and other stuff” and “now they have a sewage plant that runs at half capacity,” he continued. Having HRSD run it would be a “no brainer. I don’t think an opportunity like that will come very often. It’s up to Onancock. I would certainly think it would be a smart move.”

Charles Bott, a native of Jamesville, and director of the HRSD’s Water Technology and Research, said the injection method could not be considered in this area because of the population. Such a task would need 50,000 people to use the system. “Probably never enough people (on the Shore) at this stage of technology,” he said.

Even so, Bott went on to use various diagrams to tell about the advanced treatment plants and he showed lists of chemicals that are removed from the wastewater in those plants. He also invited the board to tour the research center and take the final step, which is to taste the treated water.

Ken Dufty, of Citizens For Open Government, who has spoken out against local aquifers being replenished with treated wastewater, was in attendance at the committee meeting.

“We can either learn our lesson from what we see happening in the Hampton Roads area by aggressively managing and protecting our sole source aquifers, or we can try to collect as much sewage as we can and direct it to one place,” the Onancock sewage plant, Dufty previously said.

But injecting treated water is not the only issue Dufty appears to have with HRSD. He expressed concern Tuesday that the cost of sanitation projects across the bay would be shared by local users if the district manages waste here.

“In my limited calculations, this appears to add up to over $1 billion in costs that rate payers, including those in Accomack and Northampton county, if they avail themselves of this service, will have to share over the next nine years,” Dufty said. 

He concluded that with high poverty rates locally, people on the Shore will not be able to afford to help fund projects in Hampton Roads.

Dufty included in his presentation an excerpt from HRSD’s Capital Improvement Program’s budget that stated costs for the Hampton Roads program total approximately $2.79 billion.

Officials did not address that concern.

Last week, Exmore Town Manager Robert Duer said joining HRSD would not be a good thing for his town because it would limit the town’s chances for obtaining grants and low-interest loans.

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