Isle of Wight water-sewer task force meets

Published 12:03 pm Saturday, December 17, 2016

Representatives from Windsor’s and Smithfield’s town councils and the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors met at the Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad for the first meeting of the county’s joint water and sewer task force Wednesday afternoon.

The task force was formed as a result of an agreement between the Town of Smithfield and Isle of Wight County to supply the county with water, which went into effect this spring. The agreement mandates an intergovernmental board to coordinate the county’s various water supplies and plan for the future of the county’s water and sewer infrastructure.

Early into the meeting, Dick Grice, who represents the Smithfield District on the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors, was named chairman of the task force, and Smithfield Vice Mayor Andrew Gregory was named vice chairman.

Also on the task force are County Administrator Randy Keaton, Board of Supervisors Representative Joel Acree, Steve Hatcher of Smithfield’s Public Utilities Department, Windsor Mayor Carita Richardson, Windsor Town Manager Michael Stallings, Smithfield Town Manager Peter Stephenson, Isle of Wight County’s Interim Director of Planning and Zoning, Richard Rudnicki, and Rich Mathew, a longtime county resident and licensed professional engineer representing the Newport District.

The task force still needs to appoint representatives from the Hardy and Carrsville Districts. They also plan to invite representatives from Franklin’s city council and Southampton County’s board of supervisors to participate in future meetings once the task force has more information.

According to Grice, the task force’s first task will be to identify all water-related sources and assets available to county residents, including commercial wells, and wells operated by Smithfield and Windsor. Then, the task force will map each of the sources identified and gather data on each facility’s current condition and age.

“It’s really an understanding of what we’ve already got,” Grice said. “You can’t really go forward until you know what you’ve got.”

By mid-April 2017, the task force hopes to have enough data to recommend year-end and long-term goals, schedules, and a management program for all the county’s potable water sources.

The task force will also track new developments in Virginia Department of Environmental Quality regulations concerning surface and groundwater pumping, and monitor the status of the county’s Norfolk water deal, which went into effect in 2014 following the completion of a three-mile pipeline to pump 3 million gallons of surplus treated water per day from Norfolk to Suffolk and Isle of Wight.

Of the 3 million gallons per day, Isle of Wight currently receives 25 percent and Suffolk receives 75 percent. The agreement provides a 40-year term and was signed into effect in 2009.

According to Grice, if the DEQ were to at some future date declare a moratorium on the county pumping well water, the county would be left with 15,000 gallons of potable surface water, which, combined with the additional water received from the Norfolk water deal, would sustain the county’s water needs for only a decade.

“Don [Jennings] came back and ran the math, and the answer was we would run out of water in 10 years,” Grice said. “While the Norfolk deal is a great deal, it is not the all-in-all.”

Acree voiced concerns that the group’s focus should not only be ensuring that the county maintains enough sources of water to meet current and future DEQ requirements, but also to make sure that the water was safe.

Keaton added that another goal of the group should be to keep county residents informed about their water.

“Most people don’t think about where the water comes from so long as it comes out of the faucet or the shower,” he said.

The task force will function as an advisory board, and as such, will not have regulatory authority, but will make recommendations to the county Board of Supervisors and the town councils of Windsor and Smithfield, and to representatives of Franklin’s and Southampton County’s governments should they choose to participate.

Before concluding for the day, the task force decided to meet regularly on the second Wednesday of each month at 3 p.m. at the Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad building in Smithfield. The next meeting of the task force will be Jan. 11, 2017.