Town faces water expenses, votes to raise rates

EDINBURG – The town of Edinburg is considering its financial options in light of ongoing wastewater treatment plant expenses and complications at the water treatment plant last weekend.

Mayor Daniel Harshman said he became aware of filter issues at the water treatment plant because of recent high volumes of precipitation last Thursday. Filter cleaning processes meant long stretches of time without water output. Residents received notices on Friday to decrease their water usage and not to wash things like decks and cars.

Put in perspective, Harshman said the town usually uses around 150,000 gallons daily, but the plant was producing about 35,000 on Thursday. The plant is now producing up to regular levels, but the town is still urging residents use water conservatively.

“I would say another day or so, if things continue, we should be back to normal,” he said.

The town faced a similar problem from increased rainfall a few years ago. Harshman said increased turbidity and strain on membrane filters at the plant have undoubtedly caused damage that would cost the town.

Edinburg utilized almost 180,000 gallons of water from Woodstock over the course of two days, using trucks to transport it. Council unanimously approved a donation toward the fire departments and those who had assisted in that process, which Harshman estimated at around $3,000.

“I have to say that the attitude of those guys is just unbelievable,” he said. “We were closing down on Saturday night and hauled till dark, and the only thing any of them had to say was, ‘if you need me tomorrow, give me a call.'”

Looking at preventative solutions, Harshman suggested that the town could install pre-filters in the wells to assist in situations that create that high turbidity – these could cost the town around $8,000. He also mentioned the suggestion of establishing a water line between Edinburg and Woodstock so that the towns could easily assist each other in such situations.

“It’s really nice to have the working relationship that we have with the other towns, that we all step up to help each other,” he said after the meeting.

He told council that a planning grant from the Department of Health might be able to contribute toward setting up such a waterline. Harshman said he’d be discussing the option further with Woodstock Town Manager Reid Wodicka in the near future, but said that the project would be years in the making.

In the February town newsletter sent out to residents, Harshman mentioned the prospect of water and sewer rate increases in light of the high E. coli levels experienced at the town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant.

At the meeting, Harshman mentioned as part of the Water and Sewer committee report that the plant is in compliance with permitted levels of the bacteria, but continued treatment to bring those levels down have cost the town between $25,000 to $30,000 in unbudgeted expenses this year.

After meeting with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality late last month, he established that representatives would be working with the town to help find the source of the problem. He said the town is probably not at risk for a fine from the department, but it could possibly be looking at a consent order.

“When we met with the DEQ, I think they were impressed by the fact that we have been taking a very proactive approach,” he said.

Considering all these expenses, Town Council voted unanimously in favor of a rate increase of $3 for minimum sewer charges and $2 for minimum water charges, but the increase will have to be discussed at a public hearing before being fully passed. The town would pass the increases effective in the beginning of April.

Harshman said the town would see $6,291 from sewer increases and $4,329 from water in the remaining months of the fiscal year. Continuing these increases into the next fiscal year would benefit the town to the tune of $25,164 from sewer and $17,316 from water.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com