Aqua updates Supervisors on status of water, sewer systems

Water capacity available for growth

By Heather Michon

Aqua Virginia president John Aulbach and his team gave a presentation to the Board of Supervisors during its meeting on Wednesday (May 4) on the current status of Lake Monticello’s water and wastewater systems.

The plant on South Boston Road is permitted to produce 1.38 million gallons per day by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).

In 2021, their average daily production was 573,000 gallons per day, or about 42 percent of their allowed production capacity. “So we have plenty of water capacity for growth,” Aulbach said. “I know that’s been a concern” in the development of new housing developments

The Virginia Department of Water Quality (DEQ) allows them to treat 775,000 of wastewater per day. Their average has been 658,000 a day, or 85 percent of their allowed capacity.

Some of that figure comes from inflow and infiltration, or I&I. This is when groundwater and stormwater get into the wastewater system through cracks in underground pipes or loose manhole covers.

Aulbach and engineer Terry Blankenship said crews have been working to replace old manhole covers and seal cracks and joints to reduce infiltration.

When it comes to Aqua service at Lake Monticello, there were two big, perennial questions: the price and the smell.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a good solution for either issue.

“Does the cost ever go down because you have more customers?” asked Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union).

“I’m just going to say no,” Aulbach replied.

Instead, he said the company is working on reducing costs and coming up with innovations that keep prices low – but eventually, they will have to increase customer rates.

“Rates do not go down,” he said. “Our cell phone plans don’t go down, our power bills don’t go down, and I don’t want to mention gasoline prices.”

Aqua America is a for-profit company. Aulbach said that profit is capped at 9.3 percent and all decisions about rate increases are made by the State Corporation Commission (SCC).

The current base price for Aqua is $18.31 for water and $32.36 for wastewater. Water is priced at $0.0078 per gallon and wastewater at $0.01489 per gallon.

The smell emanating from the plant is a byproduct of the wastewater treatment process with no easy fix. Some wastewater plants install perfume sprayers around their facilities to try to mask one odor with another. “It is horrible,” said Blankenship, adding that he’d rather smell the sewage rather than heavy perfume.

Aqua Virginia is part of Aqua America, which has recently rebranded as Essential Utilities. It is the largest private water company in Virginia, with over 100,000 customers in 37 counties. Fluvanna is one of the largest systems in its portfolio.


The first meeting following the end of the budget season had a light agenda, with only one action matter up for vote. Supervisors approved the reclassification of a position within human resources by a vote of 4-0, with Supervisor Tony O’Brien absent for the evening.

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