BEDFORD — Forest’s largest sewer pump station is rapidly nearing capacity, the Bedford Regional Water Authority reported Monday night in a work session with Bedford County Board of Supervisors.
In 2003, a preliminary engineering report revealed that the Forest area’s sewer pump stations would reach capacity around 2023 to 2025. When Forest began growing and developing faster than expected, obtaining more residents and businesses, the timeline to capacity pushed forward, said Brian Key, executive director of BRWA.
“We knew it was coming. We just didn’t know it was coming this fast,” Key said.
The Lake Vista sewer site is the oldest and largest sewer station in the Forest service area. Three additional, smaller Forest sewer stations feed into Lake Vista, Key said. The site is receiving about 440,000 gallons per day. The average BRWA sewer customer uses about 300 gallons in sewer water per day, Key said, a fairly common consumption rate. The Authority did not say how many total connections they currently serve in the Forest area.
“It’s our Achilles’ heel,” Key said of the Lake Vista station.
Key said the most cost-effective way to resolve the problem long term and gain the necessary capacity would be installation of a new gravity sewer line, which would transmit sewage to the city of Lynchburg’s regional wastewater treatment plant using the natural force of gravity. The proposed project would cost an estimated $12.53 million altogether and take about three years to complete.
Key said pumps at the Lake Vista station are not performing as they should, and the current pipes may have constricted flow due to build-up of residue over the years, similar to plaque building up and constricting arteries in the human body.
With extremely limited connection availability remaining in Forest — about 50 more connections maximum — the need to act is now urgent.
This expansion project has been included in the BRWA’s long range capital improvement plan since 2008, Key said. The water authority currently owns one million gallons of capacity at the regional wastewater treatment plant in Lynchburg and the proposed Forest project would double that sewer capacity. The Authority did not say how much it currently pays for its share of the regional wastewater treatment plant.
The water authority cannot afford to take on more debt for this project until 2023, because it is still paying off a $13.528 million loan from 2002 that was taken out for completing other capital improvement projects within the service area. With financial assistance from the county, however, the capacity expansion project could begin almost immediately.
Key asked if Bedford County would consider funding the project at $500,000 per year for the next six years. He said the BRWA was open to accepting such funding as a loan, in which the BRWA would pay the county back. The six-year financial assistance would also help defray the cost of new connections to the BRWA’s Forest sewer system, or any increase in costs of existing connections.
Key proposed a 30-year loan repayment plan with the BRWA paying $485,000 per year until the project was paid off, once it could take on the new loan in three years.
Key said he did not want to increase customer sewer rates, but it may be unavoidable for a period of time, even with county aid. Grants for this project are not available, he said.
Bob Davis, District 6 supervisor, asked if drain fields would be an option instead of funding the gravity line project. Key said soil in the area is too poor to support drain fields, which is largely why sewer connections are used.
Supervisors took no action on the request Monday night. Bedford County Administrator Robert Hiss said the county and the board of supervisors will revisit the entire matter at a meeting sometime next month.
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