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Waste-water rates may increase

The Town of Victoria is looking to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for options to get its wastewater system back in compliance with state and federal regulations.

No matter which option is chosen, sewer rates will likely need to increase to solve the problems.

One of the issues perplexing the town is the amount of copper being discharged from the east plant. Town Manager Rodney Newton said the copper comes from copper pipes in houses, primarily.

Just trying to get to the root of the waste water problems has been an expensive task. After fining the town $9,000 for elevated copper levels, DEQ approved the town’s hiring of a consultant to conduct a year-long test to determine a course of action. The cost of the test was $26,500 but did not come out as expected.

“The results did not come out to benefit us the way we thought they would,” Newton said.

The west facility is also a concern for the town. There is a high probability the facility will not be able to meet the more stringent discharge requirements coming from DEQ in 2024. Victoria recently signed an agreement with an engineering firm to provide a preliminary engineering report for the future of the west plant. The study will cost the town $29,900 and will lay the groundwork for either modifications or new construction in the near future.

Newton said in a statement the town anticipates the report will either suggest constructing a new plant or converting the facility into a pumping station that would pump the waste approximately a mile to the east plant. Building a new plant would cost several million dollars. An early estimate of pumping the sewage from the west to the east plant is between $1 million to $1.5 million per year.

“This will be a huge, long-term expense for the town,” Newton wrote.

The engineering study will help determine the direction the town will take and if the east plant has enough capacity to handle the town’s entire waste-water volume. The capacity of the east plant is 400,000 gallons-per-day as compared to the 200,000 gallon-per-day capacity of the west plant.

The concern for Newton and the town is the potential for higher sewer rates due to the necessary improvements to bring the system into compliance.

“Town council and all town employees do their best to be financially prudent with the town budget,” Newton wrote. “Many projects that in the past have been contracted out are now being completed with town forces saving thousands of dollars. Even with these savings it remains a struggle to manage the budget for town services with the increases in costs of materials and services. Due to the increasing costs and mandated upgrades the waste-water budget for the Town of Victoria has been operating in the red for the last eight to 10 years.”

According to state regulations, waste-water funds must support that