Sunday, February 25, 2024

HRSD plant expansion hits pause after JCC supes vote

HRSD has said it requires additional land adjacent to its Williamsburg Treatment Plant, at 300 Ron Springs Drive, to add the advanced treatment facilities. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)
HRSD has said it requires additional land adjacent to its Williamsburg Treatment Plant, at 300 Ron Springs Drive, to add the advanced treatment facilities. (WYDaily/Courtesy Google Maps)

The possibility of a water treatment plant expansion has been put on hold by James City County officials.

The county’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at their regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening to deny finding it necessary that the Hampton Roads Sanitation District acquire a privately-owned 53-acre piece of land at 250 Ron Springs Drive to build advanced water treatment facilities.

The resolution indicates supervisors find the proposed project does not fit criteria under Virginia Code that would allow the utility to acquire the land that is in an agricultural and forestal district — some of that criteria requires supervisors to find the project would not have unreasonable effects on the protected lands around it.

“There are some other options to be investigated,” Supervisor John McGlennon said, adding some supervisors are “very much” in support of the project itself.

Now, the county’s resolution passed Tuesday orders HRSD not to act on its proposal to acquire the land for at least 150 days after the date of the original notice of acquisition. County staff must now schedule and advertise a public hearing concerning the proposed action.

HRSD has said it requires additional land adjacent to its Williamsburg Treatment Plant to add the advanced treatment facilities.

If built, the facilities would allow HRSD to reuse treated wastewater to boost the groundwater supply. The work was proposed in response to a federal enforcement action taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice against HRSD.

The landowner, Carter’s Grove Associates LLC, did not support HRSD’s acquisition of the land, attorney Tim Trant said at the meeting Tuesday.

To move the project forward, HRSD would need to submit a request to withdraw the piece of property from the Carter’s Grove Agricultural and Forestal District — a designation that keeps the property in-use for forestal or agricultural purposes — before the facility could be built.

Before Tuesday’s board meeting, the Planning Commission voted 5-2 Feb. 6 to find the proposal necessary to provide service to the public in the “most economic and practical manner.”

The county Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee also found in January the proposal did not fit the criteria needed to allow utilities to acquire interests in properties within an agricultural and forestal district.

Since the Planning Commission meeting, HRSD reduced the request from 76 acres to about 53 acres, according to agenda documents.

HRSD only intends to use about seven acres of the property.

“I think the [committee’s] position was ‘Why take [all the land] if you don’t really need it right now?’” said William Taylor, chairman of the Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee.

Advanced water treatment and aquifer recharge facilities will help reuse more than 90 percent of treated wastewater, rather than discharging it into the James River as the treatment plant is now.

“HRSD has stated it is willing to dedicate a permanent conservation easement over the undeveloped portion of the parcel,” agenda documents state.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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