DEQ stormwater rules affect local municipal projects

New environmental rules could raise the prices of some major municipal projects in the area.

Strasburg officials are working on the design of a new facility for the Department of Public Works. Plans call for the town to build the facility on 12 acres of land it bought in the North Shenandoah Industrial and Business Park. Town Council has approved initial plans to build an 18,000-square-foot facility that includes storage space, conference rooms and administrative offices.

But action by the Virginia General Assembly allowed the Department of Environmental Quality to set up stricter requirements regulating how new construction projects handle storm water. The regulations pertain both to private development and municipal projects.

Strasburg Public Works Director and acting Town Manager Jay McKinley said Wednesday the facility’s designs are about 60-percent complete.

“One of the things that’s holding us up a little bit is these new DEQ regulations on the stormwater,” McKinley said. “Honestly, we weren’t prepared to deal with it until we submitted everything to DEQ and they were like ‘hey, you gotta do this, this and this,’ so it’s a little bit of a setback for us. We just have to work [it] into the project.”

Front Royal is in the process of building upgrades to its wastewater treatment plant to comply with tighter environmental regulations. Town Council awarded a contract late last year to Adams Robinson Enterprises of Dayton, Ohio, to build the $53.3-million project. However, Town Manager Steve Burke told council recently that Front Royal had received its first change order, or unexpected cost increase, for the project after DEQ looked at the plans and determined the project design needed to meet the stormwater regulations. Burke said the change could increase the cost by about $50,000.

DEQ used to require that any project include a “dry-weather,” water-retention pond that would collect run-off from the site, McKinley explained. New regulations require the construction of a “wet-weather” pond that not only collects run-off but also removes nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, essentially treating the water in the basin, he said.

The requirement could increase the project cost but by how much remains undetermined, McKinley said. Engineers and town officials started looking at options because building a wet-weather retention pond would require the contractor to dig 7-8 feet of rock to go deep enough to meet the DEQ requirement, he said. Such ponds also would take up space on the site. Options might include underground storage systems with filters, McKinley noted.

Paul DeMarsh, stormwater compliance specialist in DEQ’s Valley Regional Office, pointed out that municipal projects must comply with the same rules as private construction. The municipality would need to develop plans for stormwater management and erosion and sediment control for any project that involves the disturbance of more than 1 acre of land.

How the new regulations would affect the cost of a project versus the old rules depends on the site and the engineers, DeMarsh said.

“Some of the engineers have told us that, you know, when it all comes down it, in some cases, the new regulations even cost less to comply with,” DeMarsh said.

Strasburg has contracted with Wendell Construction to design the facility and English Construction to build the project. The town budgeted $5.5 million for the project and spent close to $3 million to buy the land for the facility. Designers scaled back the facility when earlier cost estimates came between $5.6 million-$6.9 million.

Strasburg’s department operates out of office space in Town Hall, the old water treatment plant, the area of the former public works facility and a warehouse at Borden Lumber on East King Street. The town vacated the former department facility at the wastewater treatment plant site after an inspection of the building revealed structural problems. The town has since had the department’s former home demolished.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or

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