By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL - Town Council has taken action to ensure the safety of Front Royal's drinking water.
Council faced few options as members on Monday approved spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on the first step to meet federal and state standards on drinking water. Town officials estimate Front Royal faces spending more than $2 million more to install new equipment at the water treatment plant.
Improvements would bring the water treatment plant into compliance with state and federal regulations. The town's water remains at a higher risk of contamination from cryptosporidium, a microorganism that, if ingested, can cause illness and death.
Vice Mayor N. Shae Parker made a motion to approve an amendment to the current fiscal budget to pay $352,900 to CHA for scope of services that covers improvements to the water treatment plant. Parker revived the motion that failed by a vote of 4-2 at council's meeting in May. Parker had voted against the motion.
This time, noting the pressure facing the town, Parker voted for the spending measure.
Councilman Thomas H. Sayre has cited the cryptosporidium outbreak in the early 1990s that sickened hundreds of thousands of people in Milwaukee. Sayre voted in favor of the motion, along with Parker and Councilmen Daryl L. Funk and Hollis L. Tharpe.
Mayor Timothy W. Darr did not attend Monday's council meeting. He voted against the motion at the last meeting.
CHA has recommended the town install a disinfection system that uses ultraviolet light to destroy microorganisms in the raw water, including cryptosporidium. Improvements also include a pre-oxidation step using chlorine dioxide with a sodium permanganate full-scale pilot study.
Town Manager Steven M. Burke said new regulations take effect in October. The town could request a two-year extension on the deadline to install the plant improvements. In order to do so, council would need to approve the preliminary step before July 1.
Councilmen Bret W. Hrbek and Eugene R. Tewalt remained opposed to spending more money on water plant improvements. Hrbek expressed support for water quality and safety but questioned why, if the town needed to make such improvements to the treatment plant, did the federal government not try to impose such requirements sooner.
"I don't think that it's an unreasonable debate that we've had in the past month about this particular issue," Hrbek said. "It certainly has highlighted some of the federal mandates that have been placed on the localities, especially the size of Front Royal."
Tewalt again criticized the federal government.
"It just seems like there's no end to the bureaucracy that comes out of [Washington] D.C. and Virginia," Tewalt said. "It's time that we take a stand as a town."
Town officials anticipate funding the $352,900 expense with revenue from water connection fees. The town expects to receive additional revenue from the Dominion power plant and the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.
Also at the meeting, council:
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org