By now, most people are familiar with Murphy’s Law. After a meeting with the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority (RWSA) to discuss possible expansion of the sewage treatment station on Chesapeake Street, residents of Charlottesville’s Woolen Mills neighborhood may feel that whatever can go wrong just might.
The Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority could double the size of its existing water treatment facility near Riverview Park. Residents waqnt to know if such a move could double the accompanying stench.
There will be an expansion. It’s just a matter of where. Over the next 50 years, the combined infiltration of ground water, rain water and raw sewage is projected to increase by 50 percent, from 8 million gallons per day to 12 million. On December 8, Tom Frederick, executive director for the RWSA, presented neighborhood residents gathered at the Woolen Mills Chapel with four options for expanding the treatment station, with an estimated price range of $27 million to $37 million.
“The meeting last week was just a kickoff meeting to collect feedback from the community,” says Frederick. “The hope is that we can refine these concepts and make a decision in 2011, the earlier the better.”
The cheapest proposal, Option A, calls for a doubling in size of the extant pumping station on Chesapeake at Riverview Park, Option B would move the station into the park and clear some forest acreage. Option C, by far the most controversial, proposes that the RWSA move the pumping station to its main plant on Moore’s Creek Lane—requiring an easement across four properties on East Market Street.
“I cannot quite fathom digging a trench that deep across at least four yards and the park,” says Roger Voisinet, an eco broker with RE/MAX and one of the residents of Woolen Mills who may see his yard torn up if the 60′ easement of Option C goes through. “I hope that option C is dropped soon. Option A seems the most logical and least expensive.”
The Woolen Mills has a reputation for being the place where, pardon the French, shit rolls downhill. Back in 2008, the RWSA’s sewage plant on Moore’s Creek stopped composting biosolids at the site and started shipping them off to a facility in Richmond, with hopes of lessening the foul odors in the air.
“The city knows Woolen Mills has gotten a raw deal,” says Chris Hays, who runs Hays + Ewing architectural studio with his wife, Allison Ewing. “They said originally that you wouldn’t see the sewage treatment center, you wouldn’t hear it or smell it, and they know it hasn’t worked out that way.”
“I agree, the smells have gotten loads better, and I’m O.K. with the status quo,” says Ewing. “I’m distressed at the thought of doubling or tripling the size of the station, horizontally and vertically. I have it straight from one of the RWSA folks, there will always be smells associated with a pumping station. So why do we want to increase that potential smack in our midst?”