Water plan a quantum leap for county, supervisor says

By Heather Michon

The Board of Supervisors accepted an updated set of county ordinances for water and wastewater after a public hearing at their meeting on Wednesday (Oct. 5).

Fluvanna has three municipal water systems: Fork Union Sanitary District (FUSD), a small system in Palmyra Village, and the new Zion Crossroads system (ZXR), which will soon be in operation. The new ordinance brings the county up to date with new Virginia administrative codes, adopts new technical documents, and sets standard rates for all three systems. 

Lake Monticello and surrounding communities are served by Aqua America, a private utility with its own operations and fee schedules.

Rather than set different fees for ZXR, FUSD, and Palmyra, County Administrator Eric Dahl said, “we’re making one consistent countywide rate.”

The base rate for usage on all three systems is $11.22 for water and $17.65 for wastewater to a maximum of 2,000 gallons of usage per month, with additional water charges for usage over 2,000 gallons. Dahl said this was the current rate for FUSD and Palmyra customers.

Establishing a new connection to ZXR or other systems will start at $17,000 for a standard ¾ connection. Larger diameter connections geared towards businesses and larger developments will cost more, with a 1-inch connection price at $34,000 and a 4-inch connection coming in at $544,000. 

These hookup prices are higher than in surrounding counties like Louisa and Goochland, but Dahl said there were factors in both counties that kept their prices lower. The Louisa Water Authority receives operational subsidies from the county, and some residents in Goochland pay a higher rate to support their countywide system.

Dahl pointed out that development at Zion Crossroads was going to focus primarily on business and light industry, and the expense of connecting to the water system was unlikely to be a deal-breaker for prospective business customers. Once connected, base rates are competitive with area counties.

The 35-year plan

Richard Kincheloe of Dewberry Associates gave a presentation on his assessment of county water systems and where they needed to go over the next 35 years. The study gave recommendations for where the county might need to make improvements over that period, from building in new redundancies to extending service lines.

They also see the need for a central water treatment plant, ideally located somewhere near the new Fork Union Business Park on Rt. 15. Water could be pumped from the James River for use by the FUSD system. He and Dahl stressed that this didn’t need to be done immediately, but would help improve capacity over time.

All three systems currently have limits on the amount of water they can provide. Once operational, the ZXR system will initially only be able to provide 75,000 gallons per day. Once the James River Water Project is completed, they have an agreement with the Louisa Water Authority that would allow them 400,000 gallons per day. 

Kincheloe said their models showed that the rate structure under consideration would allow the three systems to operate without additional capital funds from the county for emergencies or replacement of aging equipment during this 35-year period.

Quantum leap

Supervisors had to vote on several different motions. The current Chapter 21 of the county ordinances was to be repealed in its entirety, and replaced with a new Chapter 21 containing updated language and amendments. County Attorney Fred Payne said the original chapter was so outdated and so comparatively limited in scope that it was cleaner to repeal it than to simply try to add new language. A third motion adopted the new Utility Master Plan.

The votes marked the culmination of years of work by the supervisors and county staff. Modernizing and expanding Fluvanna’s water infrastructure, particularly at Zion Crossroads, is seen as critical to the county’s future economic growth. 

Supervisor Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) said the issue was one of the things that had led him to run for the board in the first place. “This is a quantum leap for Fluvanna,” he said.

Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) said this new package was a long time coming. “It’s a privilege for me to be sitting here to see this,” she said. “It’s finally going to happen.”

All three motions passed by a vote of 5-0. 

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