Claremont awarded ARPA funds for water tower

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Virginia Department of Health awarded the town of Claremont a $3.2 million grant on Oct. 4 to begin a waterworks upgrade that’s been stalled for nine years.

In 2012, the VDH’s Office of Drinking Water wrote to the town’s mayor, George Edwards, taking issue with the roughly 300 water users on Claremont’s system given that its water tower hadn’t been in service since at least 1983. Without that tower, the town had an effective water storage capacity to serve fewer than 10 residential connections, and couldn’t provide sufficient flow for fire hydrants, the VDH warned.

The VDH then offered the town a $1.8 million loan in 2016 for the purpose of constructing a new water tower and related upgrades. But the town never closed on the loan and the VDH withdrew the offer earlier this year, citing the project’s lack of progress.

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The $3.2 million grant — which town and VDH officials both confirmed is indeed a grant, and not another loan — comes via American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill Congress passed in March provided roughly $4 billion in aid to Virginia, of which the VDH is slated to receive two $50 million payments, one this year and one in 2022. According to Dan Horne, engineering field director for the VDH Office of Drinking Water’s Southeast Virginia field office, the VDH must spend or at least obligate the funds by 2026.

Individual localities received their own ARPA fund allocations, but the money for the Claremont waterworks project will be coming out of the state’s allotment.

According to Horne, the VDH began allocating its ARPA funds by making a list of projects the agency had already been made aware of “by various sources.” The Claremont water tower was one of those projects, and among the first award letters the VDH sent out. There is no requirement that the town match any portion of the funding with local tax dollars, Horne said.

According to the VDH’s Oct. 4 letter to Edwards, the project will include a new booster pump station, new 30,000-gallon water tower, a backup power supply and the replacement of portions of the town’s existing water lines. The VDH had previously issued a construction permit for the project on Feb. 21, 2020, which will remain valid through Feb. 21, 2025.

“Town council’s commitment and hard work on this project shows our commitment to our residents,” town staff posted to Claremont’s Facebook page on Oct. 6.

According to the permit, the project specifications have been designed to meet an average daily demand of 34,000 gallons per day based on an average production of 22,087 gallons per day in 2019.

“This project may result in change in the permitted capacity of the waterworks,” the permit states. “After the proposed improvements are constructed and placed in operation, the permitted capacity of the entire waterworks will be re-evaluated.”

The VDH’s 2012 letter to the town had stated Claremont’s existing inoperative 22,000-gallon tank, if placed back into service, would only provide effective storage for 118 residential connections. To serve up to 350 connections and provide fire protection, the VDH recommended the town replace the out-of-service tower with a 130,000-gallon one.