HRSD going to Surry

Published 1:13 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2017

County will deed plants to regional agency

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

SURRY — After nearly a year of negotiating, researching and planning, the Surry County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to deed the county’s wastewater treatment systems to the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, which will now oversee the service for the county.

“This is by far the biggest opportunity that we will ever see come into our community,” said Surry County Administrator Tyrone Franklin before the vote at the Feb. 2 meeting.

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“This is it.”

The finalized contract between the two entities will allow the county to withdraw from the agreement with HRSD at any point, providing it gives a one-year notice. HRSD, however, would not be able to cut the contract without the county’s approval, according to HRSD General Manager Ted Henifin. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“If it’s not working, we can terminate it,” said Board of Supervisors Chair Judy Lyttle at the meeting of the agreement. “I love that part of it.”

Another amendment to the original contract was a clause giving the county the authority to subsidize rates for county residents.

Users of HRSD’s wastewater treatment system will pay around $37 to $52 a month, according to a report by the Surry County Chamber of Commerce.  The town of Surry charges $47 per month for 4,000 gallons and $11.75 for every 1,000 gallons after that.

The transfer of the wastewater system was approved by the Board following a public hearing, which showcased both strong support and strong reservations among county residents regarding the transferring of the facilities.

Sam Edwards of Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, which burned down in a fire last January, is looking to rebuild its operating plant. Edwards spoke in favor of HRSD taking over the treatment systems.

“Our hope and our goal is to build here in Surry,” Edwards said at the public hearing. “But in order to do that, we must have HRSD,” due to the 90-year-old ham company’s heavy amount of wastewater production and regulations preventing them from building its own wastewater treatment system.

Mike Eggleston of Dendron began by stating that he wasn’t sure if he was for or against the plan, but asked if the county lacked the “competence” to run the sewers by itself, or if it simply did not want to anymore.

“You’re telling me with this ploy to have HRSD take over the sewage plant for a county of 7,000 people, with large administrative costs and maintenance costs, that you are incapable of running a small sewage plant?” Eggleston said.

Two other residents came forward in favor of the transfer, and two more leaned against it.

After the public hearing closed, Franklin stressed the importance of the decision to transfer to HRSD, noting the need for infrastructure in the county.

“When people flush their commodes, they want response — an immediate one,” said Franklin, drawing a few chuckles from the crowded room. “You can’t play with that.”

The decision will also alleviate the county from having to handle the wastewater regulations enforced by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which has served both the county and the town of Surry with violation notices in the past.

Franklin said at the meeting that since he’s been administrator for the county, he has had to serve more or less as the director of public works for the sewer system, despite having no background related to wastewater treatment.

“Over the years, I’ve learned a bit, but I am still far from capable of being the lead person to kind of get us down the road for what this community needs,” Franklin said in support of transferring the sewer systems to HRSD. “If we go in this direction, we no longer have to be worried with it.”

After the transfer was approved, the Board voted to pay off the debt on its current waste systems in the amount of $600,000 from the county’s general reserve.

HRSD will take the roughly 20-year-old facilities “as is” from the county, according to Henifin.

“There’s a sucker born every minute,” Henifin joked at the meeting.

Henifin also said that HRSD would probably continue to contract with Sussex Service Authority to provide maintenance on the county’s facilities for now.
“Obviously, we’re not ready to step up and staff for this area,” said Henifin.

The town of Claremont opted out of joining the county in transferring its sewer systems to HRSD, as the majority of its 360 residents have individual septic systems or are using a package sewer system, according Claremont Mayor George Edwards.

As Surry County had ownership of the town of Dendron’s system, the next step would be for the town of Surry to approve transferring its wastewater treatment system to HRSD as well.

Henifin said that with just the county’s system’s flow available, he believes HRSD would not be able to treat large-scale wastewater, such as that of Edwards Virginia Smokehouse.

“Without additional flow, at least in our initial review, we don’t think we can effectively treat [Sam Edwards’] waste and meet the permit in-stream chloride standards that we have,” Henifin said.

Following the county’s approval, Surry District Supervisor John Seward asked town of Surry residents in attendance at next Thursday’s meeting to encourage Surry Town Council members to “join in on the venture” with the county in the deeding of its systems to HRSD.

The town of Surry is currently under investigation by DEQ for potential illegal discharges from its wastewater system for the second time since last fall.

The Surry Town Council is scheduled to vote on whether to transfer its wastewater treatment systems Tuesday, Feb. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Surry Town Hall meeting room, 84 Colonial Trail East.
HRSD manages the wastewater of 17 other counties and cities, with nine water treatment plants. It treats 249 million gallons of water a day.  {/mprestriction}