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Upgrades proposed for several rural Virginia water systems

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Lows the next couple of nights in the lower 60s

Aqua Virginia, a water company that serves 26,440 customers in 191 small rural Virginia systems, wants to extend a pilot program accelerating water main replacements and wastewater treatment upgrades.

It is asking the State Corporation Commission to approve a surcharge on customer bills to help cover the cost of nearly $6.2 million of work at nine of its systems.

That would translate to a surcharge of $1.56 on a typical monthly bill for 4,000 gallons and a surcharge of $2.08 a month for the same bill’s wastewater fees, or roughly a 3% and 3.5% increase, respectively.

The aim is to fix a series of problems, including the 36% of water it pumps that leaks from its system in the Northern Neck community of Lively in or the 39% leakage in White Stone. Lively and White Stone are in Lancaster County.

In White Stone, the work will include replacing the 14% of its pipes that are made of asbestos cement, as well as the 35% that are aging cast iron. 

In Callao, a Northumberland County community on the Northern Neck, work also includes replacing asbestos cement and cast iron pipes.

The work also includes upgrades to wastewater collection and treatment at its large Lake Monticello system, which serves nearly 5,000 homes in Fluvanna County, to deal with peak flows that can present operating challenges.

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In 2016 a pipe fitting was installed over a sewer line break in the Lake Monticello subdivision leading to Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County.

In addition, the work includes upgrades to another Northern Neck system in Lancaster County, two Caroline County systems, one in Culpeper County and one in Frederick County.

With the program, “Aqua Virginia seeks to continue replacement of aging infrastructure while prioritizing replacement of the highest-risk systems on an accelerated basis,” company president John J. Aulbach said in a written statement for the commission.

A recently completed three-year pilot, totaling nearly $2.8 million for replacements and upgrades, boosted Aqua’s replacement of main water lines to from 0.3% of its systems to 1.04%, in line with the recommendations of the American Water Works Association.

“We expect the main replacement and rehabilitation rate to accelerate as the program continues,” Aulbach said, adding the the pilot shows the effort is already improving water systems’ reliability.

One project in the pilot program, at a 48-home community in Mecklenburg County, cut the number of main breaks from an average of 115 a year to about 80, reducing leakage from 40% of water pumped to just 6%, for a cost of $461,000.

Another, in Botetourt County, saw main breaks drop from 240 to 30. That program cost less than $338,000.

For wastewater, a key focus was reducing what hydraulic engineers call infiltration and inflow – the dilution of wastewater through, for instance, seepage of groundwater into pipes – because this reduces treatment plants’ efficiency.

Here, work on its Lake Land’Or system serving 875 customers in Caroline County reduced this “I&I” flow by more than 46,500 gallons a day.

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