DEQ requests public input on Chickahominy River water withdrawal

Tjefferson@vagazette.com

The James City Service Authority is seeking input on an application to withdraw nearly 17 million gallons per day from the Chickahominy River.

The authority is applying for a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality, which regulates how much water can be removed from surface and subterranean water sources.

James City County Administrator Bryan Hill said the county is trying to pursue options to ensure a sustainable long-term water supply for the county's residents. The county is facing a pair of factors in its search.

In 2032, the county's existing DEQ ground water permit will expire. The state has said it wants to cut back on service authorities and localities that draw water from a regional aquifer that has suffered a steady century long-decline because human consumption has outpaced regeneration.

County officials believe the Chickahominy River could be a solution.

If approved, the permit will allow the authority pull water from the southeast bank of the Chickahominy River and on the northwest peninsula of Chickahominy Riverfront Park.

Riverfront Park is close to an existing water pumping infrastructure, which would simplify building a water treatment plant and save money.

"We're aligning ourselves to ensure James City County can make the most logical choice on how to move forward with our water in the year 2032," Hill said.

Hill said the county is also pursuing plans with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District and the latter organization's Sustainable Water Initiative For Tomorrow (SWIFT) program.

HRSD plans to take already highly treated wastewater that would otherwise be discharged into the Elizabeth, James or York rivers and purify it through additional rounds of advanced water treatment to produce drinking-quality water, according to SWIFT's website. The water would be treated to match the existing groundwater standards and added to the aquifer, the primary source of groundwater throughout eastern Virginia.

HRSD expects the earliest approvals for state and federal regulators for SWIFT are late 2018 or early 2019. The project is also expected to cost $1 billion that would be bore regionally by HRSD rate payers.

County board of supervisors chairman Kevin Onizuk said he still doesn't know all the particulars of the Chickahominy proposal but said the need for a county long-term water supply is paramount.

"As a board of supervisors we've been looking at all sources of water ... our team has been working very diligently to find affordable options that would possibly avoid the need for the Chickahominy," Onizuk said.

James City Service Authority currently draws about 5.3 million gallons a day from its wells. The county expects the current extraction to increase with projected population increase in the coming years.

"Water is predicated on growth. We're slated to double our population by 2050," Hill said.

In February, the county successfully negotiated a withdrawal permit with the DEQ allowing it to draw up to 8.4 million gallons a day from its wells through 2027.

Hill said the county will still need approval from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Army Corp of Engineers to pull water from the Chickahominy River.

Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.

Provide feedback

Call or email the Department of Environmental Quality at matthew.link@deq.virginia.gov or at 804-698-4078. The public can request copies of the permit from DEQ representative Matthew Link.

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