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Sanitation Authority looks for backup water source

The Winchester Star - 7/10/2018

The Winchester Star

BERRYVILLE — Responding to concerns of state health officials, the Clarke County Sanitary Authority plans to develop a backup water source in case problems with its existing one occur.

The authority provides water and sewer services to roughly 400 households and businesses in Boyce, Millwood and White Post, as well as the Waterloo commercial district. Its water source is the Prospect Hill Spring, which the Virginia Department of Health permitted as a public water supply in 1977. Authority Chairman Rod DeArment estimated that 80,000 to 90,000 gallons of water are drawn from the spring daily for customers.

To DeArment’s knowledge, the spring’s water never has been contaminated. But should it ever become tainted, the state health department wants the authority to have an alternative source, he told the Clarke County Board of Supervisors on Monday.

A presentation on the authority’s operations was the main agenda item for the board’s monthly work session.

The alternative source is to be a well capable of supplying 100 gallons of water per minute, DeArment said. Potential locations for the well that he identified include one at Powhatan School in Boyce, one on property that the Clarke County Historical Society owns in Millwood and one at Millwood Country Club. The latter site is not on the fairway, he mentioned.

Consultants are to evaluate and test water at those locations, authority officials said. The first site that is determined to meet the authority’s needs probably will be chosen, they indicated, and they are optimistic that one of the three identified will fit the bill.

“Hopefully, we can accomplish this without condemning something,” said A.R. “Pete” Dunning Jr., the authority’s treasurer/secretary.

“We want to be good neighbors” and not irritate anyone, DeArment said.

He did not know how soon the well can be drilled and put in to operation.

“We’re moving at our own speed,” he said, adding “we don’t have a timeline” for completing the project.

Officials said they currently do not have an estimate of how much the project ultimately will cost. To try and keep expenses as low as possible, however, DeArment said separate contractors’ bids will be sought for each stage of the project.

“Some people are better at some things [involved in such projects] than others,” he said.'

For the fiscal year that started July 1, Clarke County is providing the authority about $200,000, said County Administrator David Ash. He said that annual allocations provided in recent years have been “fairly consistent.”

Supervisors’ Chairman David Weiss, who represents the Buckmarsh District, encouraged the authority to work toward becoming self-sufficient.

Yet it is operating about as frugally as it can, officials maintain. Weiss said he believes “every effort is being made on [keeping down] your costs.”

“We don’t want to waste any money,” Dunning said. “We want to do our best with the dollars we have.”

Budgeting and spending matters were not discussed at length.

Authority officials acknowledged that some customers believe rates for water and sewer services are too high.

According to information in the supervisors’ agenda packet, the authority charges a residential and commercial water base rate of $11.73 for 1,000 gallons or less used over two months. A surcharge of $0.1173 is imposed for each 10 gallons over the base amount.

The residential sewer base charge is $108.33 for two months, with a $0.1381 surcharge for every 10 gallons beyond the base amount. The base charge for commercial sewer service is $191.16 for 12,000 gallons of water or less for two months, with a surcharge of $0.1381 imposed for every 10 gallons beyond the base amount, the information shows.

Customers are billed every two months, usually in January, March, May, July, September and November.

People must realize that the high sewer rates stem from the limited number of customers that the authority has, according to DeArment, Dunning and Millwood District Supervisor Terri Catlett.

Rates could be lower if there were more customers.

“The more growth we have” in the future, DeArment said, “the more we can spread costs” among a broader customer base.

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com

— Contact Mickey Powell at mpowell@winchesterstar.com.


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