Tuesday, November 23, 2010

DPU's Response to Times-Dispatch Article on Chesapeake Bay

Before suddenly overriding our state’s proposed new regulations, the EPA should take into consideration the immense time and financial investments that have already taken place to reduce nutrient pollutants, especially for wastewater treatment plants.

Municipal wastewater localities and agencies have proven they are serious about a clean-up effort. From 2005 to 2007, Virginia issued — and the EPA approved — stringent new regulations for water quality protection, which helped to jumpstart our state’s initiatives well before the EPA’s timeline for addressing the issue.

Lets look at the city of Richmond as an example. Right now, it is making changes to its wastewater treatment plant that required more than five years to plan and construct and will take at least two more years to finish. These changes will remove more nitrogen and phosphorus from the James River and are based on a plan the Commonwealth started in 2005.

The money already invested needs to be known. For example, ratepayers in the city of Richmond and county of Goochland have already paid more than $67 million, which includes $51 million in loans from the Commonwealth of Virginia. In addition, all Virginians contributed to a $45 million grant from the Commonwealth, as well as $16 million in utility bonds. This equals a total project cost of more than $113 million. Citizens are sacrificing to pay to the cost of cleaner water and recognition of hard work to date is deserved.

By rejecting Virginia’s plan, the EPA will cost citizens and businesses about $1 to $2 billion above and beyond Virginia’s already expensive program — while producing no detectable river improvements.

To make significant advancements on the watershed, members of the Virginia Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies (VAMWA) believe a cost-efficient, well-designed plan should be implemented. Looking at the facts, we believe Virginia’s plan should be supported and accepted by the EPA.

Robert C. Steidel, Interim Director
City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities

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