PSD makes final selection for wastewater facility site
The beleaguered Slaty Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant might have a final resting place after the Pocahontas County Public Service District board voted 2-1 to approve new acreage being donated by Snowshoe Mountain Resort. The West Virginia Public Service Commission must approve the site before construction can begin.
The board selected site 7A between the Hawthorne Loop and Snowshoe Drive which was first proposed only a month ago, according to PSD secretary David Litsey.
The board was researching a site for a pump station when engineers realized the area would be a prime location for the entire treatment facility.
"From my understanding, Dave Rigby said, 'you know where we would put that lift station would really be an ideal site for a treatment plant,'" said Litsey. "The land use planning expert for Snowshoe was here and they talked it over and decided, 'yeah it would be a much better site.'"
According to Litsey, it was the cooperation of Snowshoe and other landowners that made the decision possible.
"Snowshoe and all of the landowners have been just magnificent with their willingness to make concessions to try and get this project done," said Litsey. "That made me feel really good in the sense that it's a demonstration of community spirit."
According to Litsey, Snowshoe will also send a letter to the West Virginia Public Service Commission in support of the board's selection.
The board's final decision was for a membrane bioreactor system, an emerging wastewater technology that is gaining popularity in the industry. The PSC must also approve the system.
In a telephone interview after the meeting, Litsey explained the advantages and disadvantages of the different systems the board reviewed.
Litsey said the sequencing batch reactors, one option the board considered, produce a massive output all at once. The SBR system requires several stages of processing; a period of aerobic and anaerobic digestion, then a clarification cycle.
"In order to take in the next batch of water, you have to get rid of all the water that's there, once it's finished. All of a sudden you're releasing 45,000 gallons or 125,000 gallons that has to go someplace. All your downstream pipes and everything have to be larger sized to handle the flow," said Litsey.
The other, more appealing option, Litsey said, is the membrane bioreactor system, which produces a constant flow of wastewater. The relatively small footprint of MBR systems and the high quality effluent they produce are what make the membrane system so appealing, he continued.
"One of the nice things about a membrane system is it doesn't create a batch, it's a continuous outflow. Once it gets through that membrane it's good to go," said Litsey.
According to PSD board president Tom Shipley, the MBR system is becoming a popular option for wastewater treatment facilities. As a result, the systems are becoming more affordable.
"When you have a demand for new technology, the price comes down. What's happened over the last few years, the price came down to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Shipley. "What once cost a-half-a-million dollars is now $150,000. We were able to add membrane technology for literally a couple hundred thousand dollars, which before was much more expensive."
According to Shipley, the membranes discharge a higher quality effluent than other systems.
"When you pass the sewage material through it, the little pores are so microscopic, not even viruses can pass through," said Shipley. "A few years ago it was a unique, new technology that was quite expensive. It was being used in areas where water quality had been an issue."
Shipley said the membrane system is well-suited for Pocahontas County.
"In my opinion, very appropriate because our economic viability is based on the clean water and tourism," he said. "I felt it was well worth the extra investment. An ancillary benefit, we can brag to the world, 'we're taking care of our waters.' The fishermen and recreation folks will appreciate that."
On Tuesday, Waste Water Management, Inc. engineer David Rigby and PSD attorney Chris Negley are scheduled to meet with representatives from the Public Service Commission, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and the Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council in three separate meetings.
"They'll go through all the questions that the PSC and DEP have put forward, then present the selected alternative," said Litsey. "They'll make sure they have answered all their questions and all the materials are adequate and appropriate. Prior to the final submission, it gives everybody a chance to ask questions and talk about any issues they may have."
Litsey said he feels confident the proposal will be approved.
"Any one of those agencies can send us back to the drawing board," said Litsey. "They have already approved a $27 million loan, and we're asking for essentially $18 or $19.5 million. Hopefully, they will agree that if we were worthy of $27 million before, then we're worth $19 million now."
The PSD board will finally have a chance to take a short break after its recent marathon of weekly meetings.
"A lot will depend on what happens Tuesday with the engineer and the attorney," said Litsey. "When we get feedback from them we'll know what we need to do next."