Letter from Director of RWSA

From this week’s C-Ville in response to their recent story (and mentioned here), Tom Frederick, the Executive Director, sends a cogent response/clarification.

John Borgmeyer: I reviewed your front-page article entitled “Who’s got their hands on our tap?” in the May 3 edition of C-VILLE Weekly with interest. First, I’d like to express to you that I appreciate your contacting me as you were preparing this article, and I especially appreciate your expressed interest in the article being balanced and fair. You have a very difficult job in covering this issue, in part because this issue is widely debated in our community, and there are individuals making statements that could easily be perceived as fact though they are only an individual’s opinion. In reviewing your article, I identified several statements outside of those where you were quoting specific individuals that I would have hoped you would have asked during our interview, so that we could share with you our perspective as well. These statements and our response are summarized below:

That Mr. Frederick took the time to respond is a good sign. It is a shame, however that prior to his arrival, Scottsville was not consulted on their opinions about the pipeline.

1) The article states “…and the pipeline would run through rural southern Albemarle, where groundwater supplies currently limit development potential.” We would note that the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has offered at several public meetings that if a pipeline from the James River is built, it would carry untreated water to Charlottesville, where it would be treated to serve the urban service area. Under this plan, no treated water would be available along the pipeline in the rural area, and the pipeline would not change the growth of the rural area.

2) Regarding the dredging option, the article states that an advantage of the dredging option is that it “keeps reservoir useable, which it will not remain without dredging.” Some advocacy groups have suggested as their opinion that dredging is necessary to keep the reservoir useable, but this is not a proven fact. RWSA has stated publicly several times that the South Fork will remain in use regardless of the outcome of dredging as a water supply option, and has publicly advocated a scientifically based study of the reservoir to determine the most cost-effective means or combination of methods to preserve and maintain its continued use.

3) The article states that the Environmental Protection Agency requires that planners choose the “least environmentally damaging, most practicable” water supply option. Some advocacy groups have used the phrase “most practicable,” but the word “most” is not in the federal regulations and has not been stated by RWSA. There is no requirement to choose the “most” practicable, only the least environmentally damaging of all alternatives that are considered practicable.

4) The article states that a James River pipeline “would, after all, provide a virtually unlimited supply of water to areas whose development potential is currently limited by groundwater supplies.” This idea has been stated by some advocacy groups, but it is not correct. The ability of a pipe to carry water is limited by its size, and RWSA’s consultant has determined a size for a pipeline from the James River, that if built, would only support the 50-year goal of 9.9 million gallons per day. This is the same amount of water that would be supplied by any other option or combination of options designed to meet the same goal.

5) The article states, “Talk about RWSA’s environmental responsibility has all but disappeared under Gaffney’s leadership.” This is not correct. RWSA has stated repeatedly to the public that the current review of the water supply options is limited to the capital improvement options in the 2002 policy document, and that all statements in the 2002 policy document regarding watershed management and environmental stewardship remain in effect. Further, the stated objective of the current process, stated in every public meeting, is to find the “least environmentally damaging” option. As just a few further examples of RWSA’s commitment to environmental stewardship, RWSA hired a watershed manager in October 2004 who regularly works with the County, City and other environmental government and nonprofit agencies on environmental issues, and environmental issues and responsibility are discussed regularly at RWSA board meetings.

In the interest of brevity I would like to give you just a few highlights from recent board meetings. In December 2004, RWSA was recognized by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for obtaining acceptance into the Commonwealth’s Environmental Excellence Program. In March 2005, the board received presentations by The Nature Conservancy on stream flows and by StreamWatch on water quality of local streams. During his presentation, Brian Richter of The Nature Conservancy complimented RWSA staff for an excellent working relationship in discussing options for increasing flows in local streams. Further, in April 2005 it was reported to the RWSA board that an Environmental Management System (EMS) had been successfully established at the Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility after two years of intense work with the Environmental Protection Agency, and that an EMS is also under development at the South Fork Rivanna Water Treatment Facility.

6) The article states, “Ellis claimed to be speaking on behalf of the environmental regulators.” This is not correct. Bill Ellis claimed to be rendering a legal opinion on the likelihood of regulatory approval, based on his many years of expertise in environmental law. He even stated publicly that he had not conferred with the regulators on this opinion before rendering his opinion to RWSA, because the regulators are under no obligation to eliminate any option or render any opinion before the local community completes its decision and RWSA files a permit application with all technical data to support its selection. Mr. Ellis was not at all surprised that the regulators, when contacted by advocacy groups, stated they had not eliminated any options.

I hope this additional information is of use to you in future articles on this subject and I welcome your call at any time I can assist you.

Thomas L. Frederick

Executive Director,

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority


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