The county Board of Supervisors was briefed by the Hampton Roads Sanitation District and the Department of Environmental Quality at its Tuesday work session about long-term water supply options.
Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality updated supervisors on its approval of a permit this month allowing the county to draw up to 16.95 million gallons a day for a proposed desalination facility, which would be located at the Chickahominy River at the county’s Chickahominy Riverfront Park.
The facility could be built by 2028.
The DEQ permit would allow the county to pull water from the southeast bank of the Chickahominy River and on the northwest peninsula of Chickahominy Riverfront Park.
In the short-term, the county could have water supply issues.
James City Service Authority currently draws about 5.3 million gallons of water a day from its wells. The county expects that amount to increase based on population projections for the coming years.
In February, the county successfully negotiated a withdrawal permit with the DEQ allowing it to draw up to 8.4 million gallons a day — more than a 3 million gallon increase — from its wells through 2027.
In 2032, the county's DEQ ground water permit will expire and the state has said it wants to limit the amount of water service authorities draw from the regional aquifer. That aquifer has suffered a steady, century-long decline because human consumption has outpaced regeneration.
“We hope this ia a bridge to cover us during a transition period, because we don’t know how the aquifers are going to react,” said Scott Kudlas, director of the office of water supply at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “Our objective was to create that bridge to cover any unexpected needs that might come while the county searches for a long-term option.”
One of those long-term options is a possible desalination plant by Chickahominy Riverfront Park.
The park is close to an existing water pumping infrastructure, which would simplify building a water treatment plant and save money.
As part of the groundwater permit, the county will have to update the DEQ about its long-term water supply intentions.
“There’s potential for flexibility here,” Kudlas said.
Hampton Roads Sanitation District
The HRSD discussed its Sustainable Water Initiative for Tomorrow program, which would turn wastewater into drinking water with the use of a treatment plant.
The county will serve as a test site for the HRSD and its SWIFT program.
HRSD plans to take highly treated wastewater that would otherwise be discharged into the Elizabeth, James or York rivers and purify it through additional rounds of advanced treatment to produce drinking-quality water, according to SWIFT’s website.
The water would be treated to match the existing groundwater standards and would be injected back into the Potomac aquifer, the primary source of groundwater throughout eastern Virginia.
Ted Henifin, HRSD general manager, said the organization has constructed a treatment plant in Suffolk and will spend the next six months studying the water.
“We’re moving as quickly as we can,” Henifin said.
By 2019, Henifin said the organization will go through the permitting process with the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Department of Health.
The HRSD hopes to have the James City County treatment plant fully operational by 2030.
The plant would provide 8 to 10 million gallons per day from three wells.
Supervisor Ruth Larson was concerned how quick the water could be recaptured in the instance of something harmful being found in it.
Henifin said since the water moves very slowly from treatment facilities, the water production could be stopped long before it reaches the aquifer and treated properly.
Henifin said the water treatment plant they would build in James City County would be monitored by an independent lab housed at Old Dominion University.
The HRSD expects the earliest approvals by state and federal regulators for SWIFT would be late 2018 or early 2019. The project is expected to cost $1 billion, which would be paid for regionally by HRSD rate payers.
County Administrator Bryan Hill said he will bring Henifin back again next year to provide another update.
Jefferson can be reached by phone at 757-790-9313.