Flushing it all away

Stinky water has a price.

For Goochland county taxpayers, it may be more than $250,000 every year, in addition to a potential 16 percent utility rate increase for Tuckahoe Creek Service District residents.

In response to numerous water-odor complaints from residents in the TCSD, county officials began regular flushing of the water system on June 13, 2008.

“Everybody knows about our water problem,” said Kathy Maxwell of Kinloch, a subdivision within the TCSD. “Sometimes there are black flecks in the water. It doesn’t smell good.”

Don Charles, director of community development, said the flushing has helped decrease complaints of smelly water, but that the cost of flushing is quickly adding up.

Charles said that during a six-month period, the county flushed approximately 1.5 million gallons of water from Kinloch’s water system at a cost of approximately $35,000, which includes labor and the value of the wasted water.

In addition to Kinloch, Charles said the county also flushes water at two other locations in the TCSD. The utilities department estimates that Goochland flushes between 18 million and 22.5 million gallons of water annually.

Charles said that residents living within the TCSD use, on average, 630,000 gallons of water per day, with roughly 10 percent of that water being lost due to flushing the lines to prevent stagnation.

When the $64 million TCSD project was developed 10 years ago the economy was strong, so the project was created under the assumption that development would continue to increase, Charles said.

“In a perfect world, the developers would have foreseen the economic downturn,” Charles said. “But this is what we have. It’s not anything unfamiliar, it reflects the problems that are happening all over the country.”

But residents within the TCSD are unhappy with the water problems, especially now that the county has considered increasing utility rates as much as 16 percent for those in the TCSD, and three percent county-wide.

Goochland resident Ben Slone is concerned about the legality of such a tax increase.

“The [TCSD] system costs may fall to every county tax payer,” Slone said. “[That ]is not in accordance with the TCSD charter.”

James Eads, District 5 supervisor, said that tax rates must reflect the cost of the bonds issued to build the TCSD.

On Monday, Lane Ramsey, former county administrator, informed the TCSD advisory committee that the Virginia Resources Authority, the agency that issued the bonds to build the TCSD, has been waiting for the county to report its projected rates for the upcoming fiscal year.

“They’ve been waiting since June for us to come to a decision,” Ramsey said.

He later added that in several months the county will owe $3 million to Henrico as part of a utility development contract, but that the county utility fund is insufficient.

“We recommend that the board loan the $3 million from the general fund to the utility fund, to be repaid over a period of seven years,” Ramsey said.

Earlier this year, the board of supervisors approved a transfer of $400,000 from the utility fund to the general fund.

“We’ve had to do a number of things to balance the budget this year,” Ramsey said at the July board meeting.

Slone said the water issue is a constant reminder of the underdevelopment at TCSD.

According Charles, the county purges the lines several times a week by opening up fire hydrants. The county is in the process of building a $35,000 automated flushing system at Kinloch that would operate based on water usage—the more water residents use, the less water will need to be flushed.

“The water will run out and naturally aerate,” Charles said. “The turbidity releases the chlorine, and by the time it runs off its safe [for natural water systems].”

When the automated flushing system is installed, the water will run into the irrigation pond at the Kinloch Golf Club, and be used to water the golf course at no cost to Kinloch.

Although the KGC receives the water at a cost for taxpayers, Charles said the club can not reasonably be asked to pay for the water.

If the flushing system does not work, Kinloch developers may have to re-configure the irrigation system at Kinloch, which would improve the water flow, Charles said.

Charles added that he is confident the flushing stations alone will mitigate the situation.

Originally published in The Central Virginian.


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