Rigby presents sewage plan for resort area
Nearly a year in the making, engineer David Rigby, of Waste Water Management, Inc., unveiled a draft design for the Snowshoe area Monday night.
"Our scope was very specific, and we stayed within that scope," Rigby told those gathered in the Pocahontas County Commsision chamber.
The scope of that work was narrowly defined by West Virginia Public Service Commission and Department of Environmental Protection. According to a May 2011 PSC order and June letters from the DEP, WMMI must adhere to the service area and capacity defined in a 2009 Thrasher Engineering facilities plan. That plan, which contained Thrasher Engineering's "Altnerative 7-12" for the Snowshoe area sewage system was adopted by the Pocahontas County Public Service District in February 2009.
Additionally, the DEP has asked that capacity be included for properties along U.S. Route 219 south of WV Route 66. The agency also said it would prefer to see the Silver Creek treatment plant and Snowshoe Village lagoon taken out of operation.
Alternative 7-12 called for a wastewater treatment plant on Snowshoe Drive capable of treating 1.5 million gallons per day, at an estimated cost of $24.5 million. In October 2010, 14 months after adopting the Thrasher plan, a PSD comprised of three new board members voted 2-1 to abandon Alternative 7-12 and selected WMMI to develop a new alternative for serving resort-area sewage customers.
The draft of WMMI's plan unveiled Monday night is expected to be finalized by early November, Rigby told those at Monday's meeting.
In preparing its draft plan, WMMI looked closely at the plan put forth by Thrasher in 2009.
"The first thing we did... in great detail we combed the existing facilities plan," said Rigby.
Every facilities plan includes a "do nothing" alternative, Rigby explained. The facilities plan developed by Thrasher included a scant paragraph about the "do nothing" alternative, saying it wouldn't address the orders of the PSC and DEP. However, Rigby said it was important to evaluate what a course of no-action would mean for the PSD in terms of real cost and attempting to adhere to orders from the PSC and DEP. Those orders include addressing the levels of copper, lead and zinc coming from the facilities at Silver Creek, Snowshoe Village and the Inn at Snowshoe, as well as better equipping all the plants to handle the spikes in use during the resort area's winter ski season.
The WMMI "Do Nothing Alternative" includes upgrading the aging Silver Creek plant, closing and filling the treatment lagoon at Snowshoe Village and upgrading and repairing the plant at the Inn at Snowshoe and the four smaller package plants that serve developments in the valley.
This "do nothing" approach would have a price tag of $9.9 million, said Rigby.
"It's not as if there's a free ride if you don't do anything," he said. "You're still facing a $10 million ticket."
Re-evaluating Alternative 7-12
While the PSD voted nearly a year ago to abandon Thrasher Engineering's proposed Alternative 7-12, WMMI made its own evaluation of the plan.
In doing so, Rigby said WMMI found several inaccuracies in Thrasher's cost estimates.
Based on WMMI's experience in bidding wastewater treatment projects, Rigby said he believed Thrasher's overall cost estimates were much lower than the going rates for materials and equipment in the industry today.
Another cost factor was the additional requirement to treat for metals coming out of Silver Creek, issued by the DEP after Thrasher's plan was written. The cost of fixing infiltration problems at Hawthorne were also missing from Thrasher's plan.
"We looked at a number of issues-some minor, some major-where we thought the cost needed to be increased for one reason or another," Rigby said, "some slightly, some of them more significantly."
"One of the things that troubled us a bit, is that while there's... an equalization tank on the mountain, there were no provisions made for equalizing the flows that are expected to come from the valley," Rigby added.
Because of this, Rigby contends there are several elements of the Thrasher facility that would not be robust enough to handle the peak flows of the resort area. To address this, WMMI's revised Alternative 7-12 includes either increasing the size of the filters or adding the ability to equalize the peak flows.
While some of the revisions were simply matters of increasing operational capacity to meet the demands of the area, Rigby said his firm also found 3,500 feet of sewage line missing from Thrasher's cost estimate for the force main that would serve valley customers.
Taking all these revisions into account, Rigby and WMMI contend that the "true cost" of the Thrasher Engineering plan would therefore be $33.5 million, or $9 million more than the $24.5 million estimate given by Thrasher in 2009.
The recommendation from WMMI outlined by Rigby calls for closing the aging Silver Creek treatment plant and pumping wastewater from Silver Creek to a new 550,000 gallon plant near Snowshoe Village, closing the treatment lagoon at Snowshoe Village, correcting problems at Hawthorne Valley, installing a collection system along U.S. Route 219 and WV Route 66 and building a 300,000 gallon plant on the David Curtis property, near the junction of routes 219 and 66.
Rigby said WMMI estimated average daily flow in the valley would be 300,000 per day.
"That's slightly larger than what the (Thrasher) facilities plan says," Rigby noted. "The reason we selected a slightly larger flow was that the facilities plan made some general assumptions about what the density would be as properties were developed."
Rigby explained that WMMI overlaid county property maps over contour maps of the resort area to check Thrasher's initial figures.
"You can see that there are actually more properties there than were accounted for," Rigby said. "So, we accounted for those properties in our calculations and concluded that a 300,000 gallon per day facility was the appropriate size [for] average daily flow."
The 300,000 gallon figure also included capacity to serve customers on U.S. Route 219 south of WV Route 66, as requested on September 21 by the DEP. Rigby said it was unclear, however, whether the DEP will require the project to include collection lines to the area, so those lines have not been included in the current plan.
"[T]hose lines were not shown in Alternative 7-12," Rigby said. "We tried to do our work as narrowly within the scope of the (Public Service) Commission order and the letters-and there was some ambiguity in that last letter."
The WMMI recommended alternative also includes tanks that would allow for peaks equalling double the average flows. While there is currently a tank at Snowshoe Village for this purpose, the WMMI recommendation includes a tank at whichever treatment plant site is selected in the valley.
The result is an increase over the operating capacity of Thrasher Alternative 7-12, from 1.5 million gallons per day to 1.7 million gallons.
"We totaled up all the costs of construction, of repairs to the existing system, contingencies, engineering, legal administration, and the total cost was $17.6 million."
Of that total, Rigby said $7.64 million would be spent on Snowshoe Mountain, producing a system that would allow for average daily flows of 550,000 gallons and peak daily flows of 1.1 million gallons. In the valley below, $10 million would be spent to create a system that would allow for average daily flows of 300,000 gallons and a peak daily flow of 600,000 gallons.
"You've got less money to spend at the top," Rigby said, "but you have to be sure to recognize that there's already a lot of existing infrastructure up there, and you're not having to build collection lines."
In the valley, Rigby said the major costs would be building the collection system and repairing existing systems.
Rigby said the plan would immediately address the issues at Silver Creek, Snowshoe Village and Hawthorne Valley. The WMMI recommended plan would also avoid the steep slope construction of Alternative 7-12 and minimize construction that could impact caves and springs, as well as the Big Spring Fork of the Elk River. Additionally, Rigby said the plan was capable of handling the wide range of wastewater flows that come from the resort area.
Rigby said WMMI was also asked to evaluate potential future add-ons to its recommended alternative. These include the following:
Constructed wetlands on the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River to treat water for metals - $1.25 million
Add service to Big Spruce subdivision - $4.5 million
Add water chillers to Snowshoe Village plant - $1 million
Pump water from Snowshoe Village plant back to the Cheat River basin to prevent transfering water to the Elk River basin - $1 million
Add service to the Northwoods Subdivision - $2.9 million
Convert the closed Snowshoe Village lagoon to a treatment wetland - $0.15 million
Add water chillers to the plant to be constructed in the valley - $0.8 million
Add a low-pressure collection system along U.S. Route 219, south of WV Route 66 - $0.5 million.
"This is the first draft," said Rigby, "There's still a long way to go."
"We have to now couple that with the operational costs, so we've got a true capital cost and operating cost and we can look at the long-term cost per alternative."
While Rigby offered a timeline that would start in mid 2012, with the project completed by mid 2014, he noted that much of the timing will depend on reaction from the PSC and DEP and when those agencies give their approval, as well as the outcome of pending litigation against the PSD concerning the project.
Rigby said he wants the draft plan to be available for public comment. Those comments, he said, would then provide input for the final plan to be submitted in November.
Some of those first comments are sure to come Tuesday evening, when the PSD officially meets to consider WMMI's plan and hear public input.