Thursday, December 1, 2016

Aqua Virginia Update

At the Civic League meeting in early October we heard from David Jurgens, Director of Chesapeake Public Utilities and John Aulbach, the new President of Aqua Virginia. We also received the same input from Mr. Jurgens at the Friends meeting later in the month.  The City and Aqua Virginia have been in negotiation for approximately two years and they outlined a proposal to address the water quality and fire protection issues in the Aqua Virginia service area.
What we heard was that, if agreed upon by the City Council, the proposal would within 12 to 18 months 1) establish cross-connections between the City water system and the Aqua water system to allow the city to provide a BACKUP supply to provide water and pressure to the system in the event of power loss and/or to support fire fighting, 2) allow the City to directly provide an emergency water line from its 12" main pipe along Indian River Road to the Indian River Shopping Center to enable fire suppression/sprinkler systems in the center, 3) have Aqua Virginia install fire hydrants within its service area that has 6" cast iron pipes, generally the area between and including Linden Ave and Sparrow Road. Then over the next 5 to 7 years 4) Aqua would perform a capital construction improvement process to replace its oldest 2" to 4" galvinized pipe network and provide fire hydrants in its remaining service area, i.e. the area between Sparrow Road and the Virginia Beach line.
Aqua Virginia Service Area - Conceptual Hydrant Map
The proposal would resolve the fire protection issues, including for redevelopment of the Indian River Shopping Center. The proposal would address some of the water quality issues and would not require major rate increases for customers. The presenters indicate that a key cause of the water quality issues is the corrosion and sediment build-up in the aging pipe system, especially the very old galvinized pipe network: water pressure fluctuations especially stir up this contamination causing the "brown water" to flow to residents. The cross-connection to the city will provide a backup water supply if power is lost to the system, reducing the problem related to water pressure fluctuations. The ultimate replacement of the galvinized pipes will remove a major source of contamination. Aqua Virginia also said it would investigate cleaning the less old 6" cast iron pipe system, although the feasibility of this was unclear.
We heard that the possibility of have Aqua exclusively purchase water from the City, rather than relying on well water, is also under consideration, but whether is financially viable for Aqua is to be determined and it does not in itself address the problem of the aging pipes. Aqua Virginia was also quite clear that they have no interest in selling their system to the City. The next steps include gathering further public input and finally taking the proposal to the City Council.

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