Waiting is not an option

Published 3:51 pm Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Without sewage solution, Edwards says can’t rebuild

By Diana McFarland

and Matt Leonard

Staff writers

SURRY — If Surry County doesn’t fix its wastewater treatment system, then Edwards Virginia Smokehouse will either have to move or go out of business, owner Sam Edwards said Tuesday.

Surry County invited Hampton Roads Sanitation District representative Ted Henifin to talk to the Board of Supervisors last week about consolidating its disjointed system of wastewater treatment facilities that are spread out over three towns and the county.

To rebuild Edwards Smokehouse in Surry, the county will have to offer a legally binding agreement to ensure that wastewater from a new Edwards plant is handled from the time it is built. That could include the county agreeing to temporarily haul wastewater from the plant to a treatment facility until a complete treatment or collection system is fully on line, Edwards said.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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 “For me it’s a deal breaker” if some agreement with HRSD is not reached immediately, Edwards said.

Nationally renowned Edwards Smokehouse is one of the largest private employers in Surry County. A fire completely destroyed the facility three week ago.

Before the fire, Edwards Smokehouse was treating its wastewater using a mix of the county system, its own system and hauling effluent to HRSD in Suffolk, Edwards said. The combination system was required because neither the town of Surry nor the county has a system that can handle the effluent. Hauling a part of the effluent was also expensive, he said.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality grandfathered that system, but the state will no longer allow that situation to continue, Edwards said.

Promises were made in the past by the county to fix the problem, to no avail, he said.

“I got kicked in the shins once, I got kicked in the shins twice … a futile effort,” Edwards said.

Edwards is not without options. Since the fire, economic development officials have contacted Edwards Smokehouse about relocating to a community that has adequate sewage facilities. They have made verbal “sweet deals,” Edwards said.

If the company doesn’t rebuild in either Surry County or elsewhere, it will go out of business — “the end of Edwards,” Edwards said.

Another player in the system is the town of Surry, which must agree to consolidate its wastewater system with Surry County, but historically has resisted that move, Edwards said, adding that he planned to talk to the Surry Town Council last night.

Edwards said the company is moving forward as if it plans to rebuild in Surry based on assurances that the problem can be solved, but before it turns its first shovelful of dirt, will have to know no glitches are looming.

“I need an answer today,” Edwards said.

Surry County has made attempts in the past to consolidate its patchwork system of wastewater treatment facilities, but the situation with Edwards Smokehouse has given that effort new urgency.

Henifin told the Board of Supervisors that a line could either be run from Isle of Wight County, under the James River from James City County or the county could enlarge its current system.

The cost would be spread out over all of HRSD’s 460,000 customers in the 17 localities that it serves, Heflin said. Surry County would retain responsibility for the collection sites, he said.

HRSD would operate the wastewater system, but Surry County would maintain the final decision on land use as outlined in the county’s comprehensive plan.

Heflin said the proposed system does not include assisting individual homes already equipped with septic tanks. {/mprestriction}