Rigby company top choice for PSD wastewater project
The engineer who first proposed a decentralized sewage system for the Snowshoe area will have the first opportunity to contract with the Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) to design the system.
During its regular meeting at the Linwood Library on December 30, the Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) board selected Waste Water Management, Inc. (WWMI), as the preferred firm to build a decentralized sewage system for the Snowshoe area. If no agreement can be reached with WWMI, the PSD's number two and number three picks are Potesta and Associates, Inc., and Stafford Consultants, Inc., respectively.
David Rigby, WWMI president and founder, visited Pocahontas County for three days in March to inspect Snowshoe's sewage facilities and brainstorm a cost-effective solution to stop water discharge violations and provide for anticipated growth.
Rigby was invited by David Litsey, a Snowshoe resident and condominium developer, who, along with many Snowshoe property owners, opposed Thrasher Engineering's plan to build a single $25.5 million plant on Snowshoe Drive. The opponents claim Thrasher's design is too expensive and a danger to the environment.
Rigby briefed the PSD board with his idea in April: a decentralized, three-plant system that he estimated would cost no more than $20 million. In June, after receiving actual sewage flow data for the area, Rigby reduced his cost estimate to $14 million.
Thrasher Engineering, under contract with the PSD, analyzed Rigby's plan and said it would cost $27 million, nearly twice Rigby's estimate. Thrasher engineer Jonathan Carpenter told the PSD in June that Thrasher's $25.5 million plant was the most cost-effective solution.
A fierce debate continues between supporters of the Thrasher plan and supporters of the Rigby plan. The controversy has pitted resort management against the resort's largest homeowners group: Snowshoe Mountain, Inc., supports the Thrasher plan, while the Snowshoe Property Owners Council favors the Rigby plan.
Snowshoe Mountain and five area landowners filed a complaint at the Public Service Commission (PSC) in an effort to force construction of the Thrasher design. An evidentiary hearing in the case is scheduled for February 9 at the PSC in Charleston.
When the county commission appointed Litsey to the PSD board in September, the balance of the three-man board shifted in favor of Rigby plan supporters. Litsey and board president Tom Shipley acted quickly to terminate Thrasher's contract and solicit for engineering services to design the decentralized system.
Board member Amon Tracey opposed the moves and opined that the Thrasher plan was the fastest way to bring the PSD into compliance with water discharge standards and avoid costly fines from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The DEP sued the PSD in the Pocahontas County Circuit Court in August, seeking fines as much as $25,000 per day, per violation, for water discharge violations. The three plants currently operated by the PSD have been cited repeatedly for water discharge standard violations since 2000, when they were owned by the resort. The PSD accepted ownership of the plants on January 1, 2010.
Rigby founded WWMI 30 years ago and has designed more than 100 wastewater treatment plants. He also works as an adjunct professor of civil and environmental science at George Washington University and teaches related subjects at George Mason University.
Moving to other agenda items, the board heard a report from Potesta and Associates, Inc., engineer David Sharp, whom the PSD hired to examine the stability of wastewater treatment reservoirs at the Snowshoe Village wastewater plant.
Sharp said the company made seven six-inch boreholes to examine underground water flow. The engineer reported the stability of the primary wastewater lagoon exceeded industry standards. However, the stability of the embankment at a smaller polishing pond, currently not in use, is slightly below industry standards. Sharp recommended that the pond be lined with bentonite or a synthetic liner before being placed into service again as a reservoir.
In other business, the PSD board:
- unanimously approved a Thrasher Engineering recommendation to contract with J.F. Allen Company for construction work on the Bartow-Frank-Durbin water upgrade project.
- approved the financial statement for December, which indicated $153,724 in outlays and $96,523 in receipts under the sewer account; and $13,865 in outlays and $10,797 in receipts under the water account.
- tabled action on a sewer right-of-way along Route 66 in Linwood until more information was obtained from Cheat Mountain Water, Inc., and the Department of Highways.
- tabled action on the sale of obsolete water filters and a 5,000 gallon fiberglass tank from the defunct water plant in Frank.
The PSD board scheduled a special meeting for January 5 at the PSD office in Linwood to discuss/act on the engineering contract for the wastewater project. In the event a contract with WWMI is not agreed upon, a backup special meeting will be held on January 6. The next regular PSD meeting is scheduled for January 25, location to be announced.