PSD engineer appraises Rigby sewage plan
During the June 29 Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) board meeting, contract engineer Jonathan Carpenter, of Thrasher Engineering, presented his evaluation of a third-party sewage system design for the Snowshoe area.
Engineer David Rigby, president of Waste Water Management, Inc., designed the alternative system after a request from his friend, Snowshoe resident David Litsey. Litsey was displeased with the system that Thrasher Engineering designed for the area.
Thrasher's design features a single, high capacity plant at Site 7, near Linwood, to serve Snowshoe and the Linwood area.
Rigby's alternative calls for building a new plant at Snowshoe Village, upgrading the Silver Creek plant and construction of a small plant at Site 7 to serve the Linwood area.
Thrasher's Site 7 design has a peak flow capacity of 1.5 million gallons per day and includes a 10-year growth potential built in. The Rigby system has a maximum capacity of 820,000 gallons per day peak flow and could be expanded, as necessary.ﾠ
Carpenter said he had spoken with Rigby several times while preparing his evaluation.ﾠ
The engineer provided cost estimates for three different alternatives: Thrasher's Site 7 design; Rigby's three-plant system and, for comparison purposes, a scaled-down version of the Site 7 plant with a capacity similar to Rigby's.
Carpenter's cost estimates for the construction and annual operation and maintenance (O&M) costs for the three alternatives are as follows: Rigby's three plant system: $26.742 million / $905,935; Site 7: $25.483 million / $961,597; Site 7 (revised): $22.616 million / $868,191.
Based on his estimates, Carpenter told the board that Thrasher's Site 7 design was the most cost-effective option.
In a letter to Carpenter dated June 19, 2010, Rigby estimated the cost of his three-plant system at $14 million.
Carpenter said Rigby had greatly underestimated the price of poured concrete and had incorporated inexpensive, but questionable, design features such as Dutchland concrete panels.
The PSD selected the Site 7 design from several Thrasher alternatives in February 2009.ﾠ The board submitted the Site 7 plan to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for review in June 2009.
The DEP can issue a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) or require additional environmental studies. The DEP will not issue a finding until it receives a karst study, which the PSD board elected to have done in March. The study is expected to be finished in August, when a low-flow supplement is completed.
When the PSD voted to have Carpenter review the Rigby plan, critics said there was no way a Thrasher engineer would give the Rigby alternative a fair review.
Those critics expressed disdain for Carpenter's findings.
Dale Leatherman, secretary of the Snowshoe Property Owners Council, said a third party should have done the evaluation.
"With deference to Jonathan, I just find it hard to put any weight on a comparison that wasn't done by a separate, objective party," she said. "I said this, even before Jonathan went to all this effort. There should have been an outside party evaluating both plans."
Others expressed concern about the environmental danger of Thrasher's Site 7 plan.
Donelle Oxley, of Snowshoe, reiterated Rigby's warning about Thrasher's plan to build a sewer line from Snowshoe down a steep slope to Site 7.
"I'm still concerned with the Thrasher plan and the piping all the way down the mountain," she said. "At least two of the board members have expressed concern about the fact that there's a real good chance it will spring a leak and cause all kinds of problems."
During a presentation to the PSD board on April 14, Rigby said the long gravity line "is an extraordinarily risky undertaking." Rigby's written report stated, "Due to the instability of the terrain and the lack of access for maintenance and repair, the risk of catastrophic failure is extremely high."
PSD board member Tom Shipley said senior Department of Natural Resources representatives and conservation group West Virginia Trout Unlimited supported Rigby's alternative.
Kermit Friel, of Slaty Fork, said delays had added greatly to the project's cost and that the Site 7 project should move forward.
"Ten years ago, we started this project and it was going to be a $13 million project at the same capacity and our rates would have been $35," he said. "It went from there to $17 million dollars and the rates was $50 a month. Now, we're looking at $26 million and the rates will be $80 or $90 a month and everybody speaks of saving money."
Carpenter noted that the PSD would forfeit a 36-year, $9.5 million loan at zero percent interest if it withdrew the Site 7 plan to start a different project.
According to Carpenter, if new policies under consideration at the Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council were implemented, the best deal the PSD could get in the future would be a one percent interest rate. A one percent rate would add $57,500 in annual debt service on that $9.5 million, he said.
Snowshoe Mountain Resort Chief Operations Officer Bill Rock said ratepayers would bear the burden of further delays.
"To go with the three-plant solution, you've got to go right back to the beginning," he said. "I just wish Mr. Litsey was here in 2004. I think it's a phenomenal idea. I love the idea, but I think we're late."
Board member Amon Tracey said he had spoken with a Public Service Commission attorney the same day.
"Here are his words and I wrote them down," he said. "If we pick the Rigby plan or any other plan, we'll have to start all over just like we did in 2003. The new plant would take from two to five years to get shovels in the dirt."
The board and members of the public conducted an extended debate on the merits of Thrasher's Site 7 plan versus the Rigby alternative. Arguments centered on costs, environmental impact and the time required to begin construction.
The board took no action as a result of Carpenter's report.
The board voted unanimously to authorize wastewater manager Lloyd Coleman to advertise for bids for four items in the wastewater division's capital improvement plan (CIP), which Coleman had prepared. The CIP is a schedule of repairs and purchases for major end items from 2010 to 2012, with estimated costs.
The board authorized advertisements for bids on: a flow meter and discharge control valve for theﾠ three million gallon equalization tank, estimated cost - $22,500; upgrade to Shavers Center lift station, estimated cost - $12,000; a Bobcat with implements, estimated cost - $50,000 and replacement ditch mixers for the Silver Creek plant, estimated cost - $25,000.
In other business, the PSD board:
--unanimously approved the financial statement for June, which reflected $53,724 in income and $62,544 in outlays under the wastewater account and $14,453 in receipts and $17,376 in outlays under the water account.
-- unanimously approved a web design contract with Mi-Tec Computer Solutions, Inc., of Elkins.
-- unanimously approved a hold harmless agreement with the West Virginia Rural Water Association to conduct smoke testing of sewer lines on the Hawthorne Loop.
-- tabled action on soliciting for a new board attorney until advice is obtained from current board attorney Tom Michael and Region IV Planning and Development Council.
-- tabled action on adopting a standard main line extension agreement until more information is obtained on PSC training on the agreements.
-- agreed to have Shipley prepare minutes from the June 15 field trip with DNR representatives Steve Brown and Mike Shingleton and DEP representative Elbert Morton for approval at the next meeting.