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Front Royal wastewater plant work moves forward

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

Upgrades to Front Royal's wastewater treatment plant lie years in the future but town council this week caught an early look at the work ahead.

GHD Consulting representative Thor Young in his update on the project to council said the town faces several steps in the process to upgrading the facility before it can break ground.

The project is estimated to cost $45.61 million. But the town may receive an estimated $28.03 million from the state if it is found eligible for a water quality improvement fund grant, according to Town Manager Steve Burke. The eligible amount remains an estimate from the contractor based upon guidelines with the grant program. When the town applies for the funding the state will determine the eligible costs and determine how much money would be provided, Burke stated in an email Wednesday.

In order to help pay for the project town council also has discussed the need to raise the water and sewer rates for residents. However, council deferred a proposed rate increase originally planned for fiscal year 2013, Burke stated. Town officials are working with the consultant to review the capital and operating expenses to develop a new rate program for future budgets, according to Burke. Officials plan to present the results of the study to council in September.

The project takes a two-pronged approach: Upgrading the facility so it meets enhanced regulations for removing nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous; and to expand the capacity of how much water it treats, according to Young.

The current wastewater facility is rated to treat 4 million gallons per day. The project seeks to increase that plant's capacity to 5.3 million gallons per day. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality then caps the loading of nitrogen at 48,729 pounds per year. As such, the plant must reduce its release of nitrogen into the water to 3 milligrams per liter, Young explained. That level is considered to be the limit of technology at this time, Young said.

"So this will be a very advanced treatment facility," Young said.

The DEQ set the caps on the nutrient levels of wastewater released by localities based on their populations at the time, Young explained.

"But what it's meant to be is sort of an all-time cap so as actually the population of towns increases the cap stays the same so it forces them to either do lower and lower limits or to practice water re-use by which their treating the wastewater and then reusing it instead of discharging it to the rivers," Young said.

Phosphorous will be capped at 3,655 pounds per year and the nutrient's concentration must drop as the treatment plant expands, according to Young. The plant currently is not designed to remove phosphorous or nitrogen at the levels required, he said.

As Young explained, the project comes in two phases, with the first phase addressing phosphorous and nitrogen releases as well as average daily capacity of the facility. The second phase addresses the peak hydraulic capacity of the plant, the cost of which relies on the success of the first, Young said.

Work on the project began in 2011. Town Council in December 2011 granted approval for GHD to proceed with the Biomag alternative in the preliminary engineering report. GHD submitted the final report to the town and the DEQ on April 12 this year. The state agency approved the report July 11.

A project schedule indicates the town would submit the preliminary design of the upgrades on Dec. 3. The town and the consulting firm in March 2013 would look at "value engineering" to bring down the costs of the project. GHD expects to submit the designs at different percentages of completion beginning July 12, 2013 and completing in late January 2014.

GHD expects to receive a certificate to construct the upgrades from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on March 3, 2014, and the town could advertise for bids from contractors a week later. Bids would be due May 14, 2014 and the town could select a contractor in August 2014.


I guess it is all good. Now if they could only pay them younger operators better for that crazy shift work that they work. Maybe they could keep some help up there off of manassas avenue extemded/

...and you need to have them engineers that are designing the plant, work the plant for a month or so, so they can get the feel for how these plants run.

Having done a considerable amount of checking on both GHD consulting and this BioMag technology, the hype is that the reduction of Nitrogen and Phosphorous combined with the ability to triple the existing capacity of the activated sludge systems without new tankage, and without the costs of MBR technology and IFAS, reduces costs while increasing reliability, and efficiency of the overall process. That said, GHD consulting is a big supporter of this system of which this will be the first one in VA. Previous demonstrations/presentations of this system which is patented by Cambridge Water Technology, shows GHD as playing more than just a supportive role in its' introduction to the marketplace. And, by the way, what happened to the initial cost estimate of $30 million? What if the improved water quality fund grant is not received? How much are we paying GHD for all this consultation and is it a fixed cost or dependent on the final cost of the system used? Why are we only expanding to 5.3 million gallons/day when it should be at least 7 million gallons/day with the anticipated increase in the county population? It won't cost nearly that much more to do it now rather than come back and have to start the whole re-design process again in 5-10 years. For all those people that moaned and groaned about no new tax increases, does it matter when your sewer and water rates are going to be significantly higher? This is one of the largest costs to the taxpayers of Front Royal and how much is the county paying; absolutely nothing--and believe me they will be benefitting from it. I anticipate there to be a large amount of overhead costs related to this new installation when things don't go as smoothly as planned; who will pick up these costs? What ever happened to the pilot project that might be required? "Value Engineering" to bring the costs down? Why not incorporate the value engineering into the preliminary design on Dec. 3rd? This sounds and smells really bad to me. I'm thinking that $30 million or $45.6 million or whatever number is thrown out next is just the number of the day with this type of talk. I think this town needs someone independent to be providing some level of oversight to these costs and someone needs to be asking some serious questions concerning the ultimate accountability of the costs and designs projected. Is Steve Burke really qualified to make these decisions and can town councilman really be expected to know what questions to ask concering this highly technical and extremely costly engineering marvel? The Warren County Taxpayer living or located within the Town limits will be spending as much money on this upgrade as they previously spent for Water/Sewer/Land in Warren County from 1960-2010. I'm sure the County Supervisors aren't as interested in the costs considering they won't be paying them. You can bet town tax rates will go up next year--along with sewer and water rates; but don't expect anyone to relate the tax increase to the plant upgrade.

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