HRSD in Surry, an explainer

Published 1:58 pm Wednesday, March 16, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

As the Hampton Roads Sanitation District and Surry County contemplate what a possible relationship might look like, some in the community and the Board of Supervisors want to know exactly what that means.

Who is HRSD?

The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that created the Hampton Roads District Commission on March 27, 1934, according HRSD’s website. The precursor to HRSD, the HRSDC, was created because the raw sewage being released into local waterways was polluting oyster beds — an economic staple for the region — and doctors worried about health implications of open sewage drains and polluted water.

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Now HRSD treats 249 million gallons of water every day in 17 counties and cities with nine water treatment plants. Surry County Administrator Tyrone Franklin said he has been working to bring HRSD into the county for months, citing potential economic development as the project’s main benefit. 

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The transition from Surry to HRSD water treatment would not cost the county, according to Ted Henifin, HRSD’s general manager. The county would only have to shoulder cost in the project if it decided to expand the collection system — the hook-up points for the sewer system — and that decision is completely up to the county. Any infrastructure cost associated with treatment would be paid for by HRSD.

Everyone on the HRSD sewer system would pay a $27 a month treatment fee. In addition, there would be a collection fee – paid to either the locality or HRSD depending on whether HRSD takes control of that as well. Henifin said the collection fee isn’t known at this point, but said it would be similar to fees, ranging from $10 to $25 a month, in areas where HRSD already controls collection,

Residents with a septic system will not be forced to join HRSD, but if they choose to join they would have to pay for the collection line unless the county or town runs it to their residence or business.


When HRSD takes over the water treatment system in a community, it also takes over the liability associated with the system, Henifin said.

“Once HRSD owns the system, the county has no liability unless they caused some environmental issue previously and it is not discovered until after HRSD is operating,” Henifin said in an email.

Bill Hayden, a spokesperson for the Department of Environmental Quality, said no one from Surry had reached out about providing information at Surry Board of Supervisors meetings, but said it is something DEQ would be available to do.

DEQ does not currently have an opinion on HRSD entering Surry, Hayden added.


HRSD is asking the county and the town of Surry to approve the project. Once the project is approved the plans will begin, Henifin said. There has not been any engineering plan drawn up, but HRSD did inspect the current waste water system in both communities.

“Our inspection confirmed the previously identified need to replace the town system which appears to have reached the end of its useful life,” Henifin said. “The county’s system appeared to be serviceable with significant life remaining in those assets.”

While the county system is in good condition, Franklin says it is at capacity. He said that if a large employer were looking to relocate to Surry it might not be possible based on the current availability in the system.

Henifin said the HRSD plan for the community would unfold over a period of one to two years and will take into account comments from county and town officials, as well as the public.


The first vote by the Surry County Board of Supervisors and the Surry Town Council would be approval of HRSD. This would essentially act as the community welcoming HRSD in and would be used by HRSD to petition the Surry County Circuit Court.

Once in court, a judge would hear from all interested parties and make a decision on whether HRSD’s entrance is good for the community.


Both Franklin and Henifin said they’d like to transfer all assets from the county to HRSD by July 1, 2016 because it is the beginning of the fiscal year. If that deadline is missed they both said the deal could continue.  {/mprestriction}