PSD scraps plans for centralized sewage plant
Citing a change in circumstances and a change in course, the Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) board withdrew support for a proposed 1.5 million gallon per day (gpd) sewage plant on Snowshoe Drive last week and canceled the contract with the engineering firm that developed the plan.
The board did not rule out construction of a smaller facility on Snowshoe Drive, but canceled construction of a larger plant, known as Alternative 7-12.
In July 2008, the PSD board selected Site 7 for the location of a regional sewage plant. In January 2009, Thrasher Engineering recommended consideration of four sewage system designs, including Alternative 7-12. In February 2009, the PSD board, composed of Mark Smith, Scott Millican and the late Bill Rexrode, selected Alternative 7-12 by a vote of 2-1. Millican voted for a two-plant design: Alternative 7-10.
The Alternative 7-12 design includes a 1.5 million gpd, sequencing batch reactor plant to be built at Site 7, where Snowshoe Drive crosses Cupp Run. In June 2009, the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council (IJDC) approved a $25 million funding package for construction of the plant.
In 15 months, the entire composition of the board has changed, along with its support for a large-capacity, centralized plant on Snowshoe Drive.
Opponents of Alternative 7-12, including the Snowshoe Property Owners Council (SPOC), argue that a single, high capacity plant at Site 7 is too expensive, is a danger to the environment and will unfairly burden existing customers with the cost of future development.
Supporters of Alternative 7-12, including Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., and area land developers, contend that years have been wasted fighting over the plant and that the PSD risks losing zero-interest IJDC loans by not going forward with Thrasher's Alternative 7-12.ﾠ
When the county commission appointed Snowshoe resident David Litsey to the PSD board in September, the balance of the three-man PSD board shifted in favor of the opponents. Litsey favors a decentralized, three-plant design, which he says will be less expensive and less dangerous to the environment.
Board president Tom Shipley has opposed Alternative 7-12, citing his concern for the environment and his unwillingness to scrap existing infrastructure.
Board member Amon Tracey supports Alternative 7-12, and has stated his belief that it is the quickest way for the PSD to achieve compliance with water discharge standards and avoid fines, as much as $25,000 per day per violation, from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Existing PSD plants have polluted the Elk River watershed since 2002 and before, when they belonged to Snowshoe Water and Sewer, Inc. In January 2009, the PSD accepted ownership of the plants at Silver Creek, Snowshoe Village and the Inn at Snowshoe, along with their associated discharge permits.ﾠ Since then, the board has wrangled with growing opposition to Alternative 7-12 and pressure from the DEP to get something done.
At its October 26 regular meeting, the board voted on several measures to make the change in course to a decentralized sewage system official.
First, the board voted 2-1 to notify the Public Service Commission (PSC) that it no longer supports Alternative 7-12. Tracey voted nay.
The board voted 2-1 to terminate Thrasher Engineering's contract to design a regional wastewater facility, citing the convenience clause of the contract. Tracey again voted nay.
Shipley thanked Thrasher project engineer Jonathan Carpenter for his work on the project and told Carpenter that Thrasher was welcome to apply for work on a new project, under new guidance.
The board voted 2-1 to submit a request to the PSC to re-open the project's certificate of convenience and necessity (COCN) case, in order to approve a change in scope of the project. Tracey voted nay a third time.
Finally, the board voted 2-1 to advertise for engineering services for a decentralized wastewater project.
Shipley read the motion.
ﾓI make a motion to advertise the requests for proposals for a comprehensive sewer project to include the repair of the Silver Creek plant; upgrade at the Snowshoe Village plant and construction of a decentralized plant for the valley at the base of the mountain.ﾔ
Litsey seconded and the measure passed 2-1, with Tracey voting nay.
The measure reflects Litsey's and Shipley's support for a Snowshoe-area sewage system designed by David Rigby, president of Waste Water Management, Inc.
Before his appointment to the board, Litsey invited Rigby to design a sewage system for the Snowshoe-area. Rigby presented his design to the board and the public at a PSD meeting in April.
Rigby proposed upgrade of the Silver Creek plant to its permitted capacity of 100,000 gpd; reconstruction of the Village plant to its permitted capacity of 550,000 gpd; and construction of a 120,000 gpd plant to serve the Linwood area.
In August, Rigby estimated the cost of his three-plant system at no more than $14 million. Thrasher estimated the cost of the Rigby design at $26.7 million.
Supporters of Alternative 7-12 filed a complaint with the PSC, requesting that the agency order the PSD to "timely complete the project" and petition the Circuit Court for the appointment of a receiver to complete the project. A status hearing has been scheduled in that action for November 22, 9:30 a.m. in the Howard M. Cunningham Hearing Room at the PSC in Charleston.
In other business, the PSD board:
-- voted 3-0 to request a COCN from the PSC for upgrades to the package plant at the Inn at Snowshoe.
-- voted 3-0 to request a COCN from the PSC for construction of a roof over the 3-million gallon equalization tank at the Snowshoe Village plant.
-- voted 3-0 to request a COCN from the PSC for repair and partial abandonment of the sewage collection system at Hawthorne Village.
-- voted 3-0 to approve expenditure of $31,000 for new baffles for the Snowshoe Village aerated lagoon.
-- voted 3-0 to approve advertisement for the hiring of a wastewater operator or operator in training.
-- voted 3-0 to approve an expenditure of approximately $14,000 for the purchase of four flow metering devices.
-- voted 3-0 to approve a tariff to change the billing for all customers to in-arrears.
-- voted 3-0 to join the West Virginia Municipal Quality Association, at an annual cost of $2,000.
-- tabled action on the purchase of a new vehicle for wastewater operations.
-- tabled action on the purchase of a spare hydraulic motor for the Silver Creek plant ditch mixers.
-- tabled action on installation of new electrical phase protection at the Silver Creek plant.
-- tabled action on executing a deed for a collection system at Black Bear Crossing.
-- approved October's financial statement, which indicated $108,240 in receipts and $172,504 in outlays for wastewater operations and $11,318 in receipts and $11,542 in outlays for water operations.
The next regular PSD board meeting is scheduled for November 30, 7 p.m., location TBA.