Surry Town Council votes in favor resolution continuing HRSD conversation

Published 2:05 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

SURRY ­— The Surry Town Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution last week allowing the Hampton Roads Sanitation District to petition the Surry County Circuit Court for entrance into the community.

The Council’s vote joins a 3-1 vote by the Surry County Board of Supervisors earlier this month. With both legislative bodies voting in the affirmative, HRSD will now move forward with filing the petition with the court. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

HRSD General Manager Ted Henifin said in an email last week they are working on getting the petition submitted by the end of this week.

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Once in court, the judge will listen to interested parties during a publicly advertised hearing. Afterward, the judge will make the final decision on whether HRSD can expand its district lines to encompass both Surry County and the town of Surry.

“That decision on its own doesn’t mean that HRSD will take over the sewer systems,” Henifin told Town Council members before the vote last week.

He explained the sewer authority can expand to include these communities, but the Board of Supervisors and Town Council would have to vote again to enter into a contract with HRSD. Once a contract is signed, sewer assets could be transferred.

Henifin gave Council members a firmer timeline last week for what would happen if HRSD took over sewer operations.

“At first look, we believe we’d be best served to expand the county’s existing (water treatment plant) while (HRSD) is exploring other options,” he said.

Those other options are more long-term ideas, Henifin said, and include directly linking Surry to an existing HRSD locality like Isle of Wight County or the James River Service Authority.

None of the plans, however, include a future for the town’s more than 30-year-old treatment facility.

The town’s vote comes after years of struggling with their aging water treatment facility that includes thousands of dollars in civil charges due to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality permit violations.

Before the vote last week, Robert Finch, who is currently contracted to handle wastewater operations in the town of Surry, told council members the struggles had continued.

“At the wastewater plant we had a kind of rough month,” Finch told council members during the monthly utility report.

Chains in both of the plant’s rotating filters used in the multistage filtration process broke. This pushed some levels past compliance benchmarks set by DEQ permits.

Finch said one of the chains is now repaired, which brought the system back into compliance.

Kyle Winter, who handles permits and compliance for DEQ’s Piedmont region, confirmed in an email last week that the town of Surry exceeded the permit limit in three different areas for the month of February: E. coli, total Kjeldahl nitrogen and 5-day carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand.

Earlier this year, Henifin told the Council that HRSD would assume all liability associated with the water treatment plants, a facet of the transition that received approval from at least one council member. Henifin again emphasized the fact last week.

“(HRSD can) get you out of the sewer business all together,” he told council members, “so you’ll no longer have Robert (Finch) reporting to you on your permit violations because they would be HRSD’s permit violations.”

Talks with HRSD began when Surry County approached the sewer district about the possibility of becoming a member.

While the county’s system is newer than the town’s, and doesn’t have the same compliance issues, it is near capacity.

Surry County Administrator Tyrone Franklin has said on multiple occasions that HRSD would provide unlimited sewer capacity, which could have positive implications for economic development.

Currently, an employer that would create a lot of wastewater might have to look beyond Surry due to limitations in that area, Franklin has said.  {/mprestriction}