Monday, January 28, 2019

Leonard Parkway Drainage Improvement Project

The City is making storm drain and ditch improvements along two alleys on either side of Leonard Parkway that back up to the residential properties between Bunting Avenue and Westmoreland Street. This work includes the installation of 1,950 linear feet of 15 inch and 18 inch storm sewer pipe, 11 drop inlets and manholes, grading and paving of alleyways and other related work.

This area is in the First Council District in the Colonial Place neighborhood. Messer Landscaping is the contractor. Existing utilities will be marked, followed by the installation of erosion and sediment controls and traffic control measures as needed.

North Alley improvements begin Feb. 4, south alley begins May 6, with final restoration work approximately beginning July 8.

What is the purpose of the project?
To improve drainage of the storm sewer along the alleys located north and south of Leonard Parkway between Westmoreland Street and Bunting Avenue to alleviate private property flooding.

Will the project work impact my property?
All of the project’s limits of disturbance (LOD) are within the City’s right-of-way.

Will the proposed drainage work impact any of my utilities?
It is not anticipated that the work will impact any property owner utilities within or outside of the LOD. Excavation within the trench for installation of the new storm sewer pipe will require work to be carefully performed around existing underground cable, phone, fiber optic and natural gas utilities as well as aboveground power and communications utilities.

How will this work impact traffic in the area?
Work within the project corridor will impact access to and from the alley, that is, within the active area of construction. Property owners will be given a 48-hour advance notification when they can expect limited or no access to and from their property by means of the alley. Road closures will also be required on Bunting Avenue and Leonard Parkway at a few locations where the new storm sewer will be connected to the existing storm sewer. Traffic control measures will be placed at appropriate locations to notify property owners and the general public of the work zones and any alley or road closures associated with the active construction zone. Residents may also follow DPU’s Street closing Twitter feed @DPUStreetNewsfor real time updates of street closures due to utility work.

Will this work impact parking within the alleys?
Parking will be impacted in the alleys within the active construction areas. The 48-hour advance notifications will identify these areas where alley parking will be impacted.

What permits were needed for the project?
A land disturbing permit will be issued prior to the beginning of actual construction as well as a work-in-streets permit. Both of these permits are issued by the City.

When will the work be performed?
The work will mainly be performed between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Although it is not anticipated, some construction tasks may need to be performed after-hours or on weekends.

How long will it take?
The project is anticipated to be completed within 6 to 8 months.

Craig Pittman, P.E.
Project Manager
Department of Public Utilities
Technical Services Division
804-646-6454 (office) or 804-240-1517 (cell)

Friday, January 11, 2019

Richmond Gas Works Adjusts Purchased Gas Cost

Reflected on the first utility bill received in February 2019, customers of Richmond Gas Works (RGW) will see an adjustment of the purchased gas cost (PGC) for natural gas used in January 2019. The cost for purchased gas will change from $0.400 per 100 cubic feet (1 Ccf) used to $0.500. The average customer who uses 70 Ccf’s of natural gas will see an estimated $7.00 (8.6%) adjustment in their monthly bill. Richmond Gas Works passes on the cost of natural gas purchased and delivered to customers, dollar for dollar, without any markup. Other components of the natural gas bill – the distribution charge and customer charge – are unchanged. At the time of this release, Richmond Gas Works’ PGC rate is competitive with those of the surrounding natural gas franchises.

Across all energy sectors (electricity, heating oil, propane), natural gas remains the most efficient and economical choice of fuel for home heating, water heating, cooking and clothes drying. Richmond Gas Works customers who experience difficulty paying their natural gas heating bill may be eligible for heating bill payment assistance and are encouraged to seek help before bills become unmanageable. We offer information and programs year-round. RGW customers are also encouraged to enroll in the Equal Monthly Payment Plan (EMPP) in order to avoid large seasonal fluctuations in their monthly bill. More information about EMPP and other programs is available by calling (804) 646-4646 or visiting
  • Equal Monthly Payment Program (EMPP) - Richmond Gas Works, in conjunction with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), offers this program which spreads payments evenly over 12 months, along with other convenient payment plans. The EMPP works well because the annual customer bill is used to calculate an equal payment amount that spreads the cost over the entire year and allows customers to develop a monthly energy budget. Call Richmond Gas Works’ Customer Care Center at (804) 646-4646 for more information.
  • MetroCare Program - This heating bill payment assistance program provides funds to eligible families and individuals who are having trouble paying their primary heating bills due to a financial difficulty or other special hardship. The program period began Dec. 15. Residents within Richmond Gas Works' service territory may apply for funds through MetroCare. For more information, call (804) 646-4646.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Haxall Canal Maintenance Dredging Project Commences January 5, 2019

The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) will begin dredging the Haxall Canal Saturday, Jan. 15, as part of its maintenance dredging project.

The Haxall Canal, which starts from the head gates near the west end of Brown's Island and extends to the 12th Street level control structure has accumulated large quantities of sediment from the James River and has reached levels that undermine the functionality of the level control structure and head gates, in addition to the aesthetic features the canal provides to the City.

This project will remove these large quantities of sediment that have deposited in the canal, and comes after a survey and assessment completed this summer. The dredging operation will require the canal to be drained it its entirety for approximately four months, with work ending May 1, 2019.

Sediment in the canal before the last dredging
The Haxall Canal was previously drained and dredged of sediment in 2008. The City is expected to perform this required maintenance every 10-15 years. In addition to routine dredging maintenance, the Canal is periodically drawn down to lower levels for routine maintenance most often associated with cleaning trash and debris that undermine the functionality of the head gates and level control structure.

DPU staff have worked closely with Venture Richmond to establish the dates necessary for the current drawdown of the canal and will continue to do so in the future. In addition, Game and Inland Fishery staff have been notified of the canal draining and will be on standby to possibly assist with fish trapped in the canal when drained. Unfortunately this is not a finite process and a small number of fish could be killed, odors from stagnant water may be present, and there will be unpleasant aesthetics as a result of an empty canal bed.

In addition, citizens should expect frequent construction traffic and equipment on a small portion of Brown's Island necessary for staging and access to the canal. Construction traffic will enter Brown's Island from Tredegar Street where vehicular/pedestrian access will be closed to the public throughout the duration of the project. All other pedestrian access points will remain accessible.

For more information regarding this project, please contact Angela Fountain, DPU/DPW Public Information Manager at 804-646-7323 or Howard Glenn, DPU Operations Manager at 804-646-1920.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

MetroCare APPLY and GIVE

MetroCare Heat was very helpful to me,” says Carol, 76. After experiencing medical problems, “I’m doing better, thanks to the help.”
Willie, 62, said his utility bills had been cut off when he applied. “And it was all paid off. I thought I was going to be homeless. Everybody came through for me.”
“I had just started a new job and couldn’t risk getting my utilities disconnected while I caught up on my bills,” remembers Cynthia, 46.
“I needed help with my natural gas bill after my husband left,” said Marguerite, 52. “MetroCare Heat helped.” 

What is MetroCare Heat?
MetroCare Heat assists families and individuals who are having special hardship or financial difficulties paying their heating bills.

How to donate to MetroCare Heat
Contributions are made to MetroCare through DPU-sponsored events and by donations made through customer utility bills. Direct contributions can be made by sending a check to DPU/MetroCare Heat, 730 E. Broad Street, 6th Floor, Richmond, VA 23219.
All donations are used to aid in the payment of primary home heating bills including natural gas, electricity, oil, propane, wood, coal, steam or hot water. No funds contributed are used for administrative expenses.

How to apply for MetroCare Heat
Any person who lives in the DPU service area who is determined by Capital Area Partnership Uplifting People to meet eligibility guidelines is eligible. The application period runs from December 15 to April 30, depending upon fund availability.
Generally, customers whose household income qualifies under the 2018 Federal Poverty Guidelines charts, or who are unemployed, or have a demonstrated family crisis, may receive MetroCare Heat assistance after any federal/state/fuel assisance, EnergyShare or other similar programs are exhausted, or have been determined ineligible for such programs. MetroCare Heat pays up to $500 per heating season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

What It Takes to be a Female DPU Engineer

Susan Hamilton attended a career fair when she was 13 and identified with a vendor there. “He looked like me. He was a civil engineer and built bridges.”

They talked about the requirements for becoming an engineer and he told her she could be “a trail blazer and a role model,” she remembers. There were bridges where she lived in California and she enjoyed math, so she decided to make bridge-building her career.

“That changed when I took a structures class later in school. My interests changed to soils and subsurface construction.”

The greatest obstacle for her was resuming her education after a long break. “I left school in my junior year to travel with my husband, who was in the Army, and I didn’t return to school for 11 years. Then I enrolled in civil engineering and had to retake calculus. I didn’t mind being older than some of the other students. There were other non-traditional students there.”

Her first job after graduation was as a water and sewer utility engineer. “I had a great boss and mentor who taught me what I needed to know to be successful. I now have confidence not to be afraid to ask about what I don’t know, and to share what I do know with others. My professional motto is ‘Leave a community, neighborhood, or project area in better condition than you found it.’”

Hamilton is operations manager for Sewer and Stormwater Capital Improvement Projects. 

Janice Bailey’s mother left school early to get married, so she told her children they were definitely finishing college. “I came from a family of teachers. My mother always said, ‘I don’t care how you do it as long as you do the best you can!’”

So she enrolled in Upward Bound, a federally funded educational program, and researched careers. “Engineering had math and science, which I loved. My grandfather was a home builder, including the family home where I was born. I decided to follow in my grandparents’ footsteps and major in engineering.”

She worked numerous side jobs unrelated to engineering, constantly looking for engineering internships. “It’s a competitive and diverse field,” she says, and school was more theory than application. She wanted the hands-on experience.
Finally, she got her start in a large engineering shop designing ship components. “My commute was an hour or longer each way, so I was thinking of trying home renovating, but then I started working in the utility field and that’s become my career.”

Bailey is operations manager for Enterprise Asset Management.

Rosemary Green’s father was an electrical engineer, and she also wanted a “solid career” where she would always be able to support herself.

“I was interested in what I could see and touch, understanding why a wall stood and did not fall, or how a roadway was constructed from different points and met accurately in the middle. I was considering architecture, but decided I wasn’t creative enough.”

Her older sister suggested she apply for college as a liberal arts major and then switch majors once she was accepted, so she did and immediately transferred to engineering.

“The classes were hard, so you had to plug away day by day. My first roommate was applying to veterinary school, so she was always studying, too.”

Green has 10 siblings, so helping with school expenses was another consideration. “I signed up for the co-op program which solidified that I was on the right career path. I really liked being around construction and people who were solving problems.”

Eager to start her career now, she was pleasantly surprised to find companies were eager to hire female engineers. “I was getting two or three interviews for every one that my male classmates were getting.

“I was given many opportunities, first in engineering and construction for power stations, then in field offices for power distribution groups. I hit the industry at the right time, following advances made by women before me and men who wanted to see women succeed in the field.”

Green is a deputy director and supervises water treatment and distribution, wastewater treatment, engineering services and capital improvement projects.

Amanda Bickel was always interested in how things worked and how they were built. Acquiring her civil engineering degree was her goal. “I was working full-time as a land surveyor and taking evening classes. As a woman and new to engineering, it was initially a challenge as I was not always taken seriously in this field and struggled to find positions where you can have an opinion in the decision-making process.”

Bickel has been with the city three years and is an engineer in gas distribution where she supports design, planning, construction, operation and maintenance.

Surani Olsen chose environmental engineering because she wanted to solve pollution problems. “Because of the visible environmental pollution around Indonesia where I grew up – emissions from buses, cars, and river pollution – I felt clean air, clean water and a clean living environment were our basic needs.”

Her biggest challenge was completing her undergraduate research project at the same time she was working as a tutor to pay for her tuition. Finding an entry level environmental engineering job was the next challenge, as well as passing the professional engineer licensing exams.

Olsen is a project management analyst in Stormwater.

Jennifer Hatchett enjoyed math in high school and loved solving complex problems. “My dad’s friend was an engineer in the wastewater industry and I got interested in engineering talking to him. I interned for him one summer during college.”

Engineering school was a challenge. “There were times I really thought, this is too hard!” she remembered. None of her friends were in engineering, so she had to stay focused. “I was with mostly males in school, which was sometimes daunting. And that was the same issue when I started working. There weren’t many women in the places I worked.”

Hatchett was a project and area manager for a global engineering company, before coming to DPU where she oversees stormwater and wastewater collections.

Sarah Deitz wanted to become an environmental engineer to “apply environmental concepts to improve surrounding communities. I always enjoyed science, and this was a way to apply it in a positive way.” Her biggest challenge was creating a network of mentors in the engineering field. “Having a supportive network is priceless,” she says. A recent hire at DPU, Deitz is an engineer in water resources.

(left) Rosemary Green (top row) Amanda Bickel, Janice Bailey, Susan Hamilton (bottom) Jennifer Hatchett, Sarah Deitz, Surani Olsen

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Citizens Academy Highlights 2018

To view as a slideshow, click on the first photo.

Our Neighors Visit the Water Plant

On Imagine a Day Without Water day, Oct. 10, 2018, we invited our neighbors who live around the Water Plant to come in for a tour. We had nearly 40 people register and 32 show up. Here's what we saw!

To view photos as a slide show, click on the first one.

Can you tell the difference between city water and bottled water?