Huge Sewer Rate Increase Won’t Affect Bayshore Concrete
By DORIE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
June 27, 213
Cape Charles Town Council meets tonight (Thursday) to approve a budget with the biggest sewer rate increase in Town history. The minimum monthly sewer charge will rise from the current $35.45 to $60.85 – a 72 percent increase.
Town officials plead they have no other option than to drastically increase rates because there just aren’t enough users to create efficiencies at the Town’s new $19 million wastewater treatment plant.
Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek, who also acted as the Town’s chief consultant for construction of the wastewater plant, wants to create efficiencies by pumping in sewage from out of town, beginning with commercial properties on Route 13.
But Panek is ignoring the Town’s biggest potential customer – Bayshore Concrete Products. Located only hundreds of yards from the new wastewater treatment plant, Bayshore has never hooked up to Town water or sewer pipes.
Bayshore’s treasurer, John Chandler, told the Wave that his company had not given any thought to using Town utilities. When asked whether they would consider it, Chandler said, “There has been no analysis done.”
Town residences and businesses generally are required to use Town water and sewerage, and the Bayshore plant is inside Town limits.
The Wave asked Panek why Bayshore had not been compelled to connect to Town utilities. Panek said the reason is because there are no Town water or sewer lines within 100 feet of Bayshore property.
Panek also said that he did not think Bayshore Concrete uses very much water.
A 2007 Town map indicates that Bayshore Concrete had eight wells and five septic tanks at that time.
Research by the Wave reveals that in 2006 the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) fined the Bayshore plant $39,000 for groundwater violations.
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Back in 1996 there was a proposal for Bayshore to use treated Town wastewater in its concrete manufacturing process. An article by Karen Jolly Davis in the October 19, 1996, Virginian-Pilot states:
“Bayshore Concrete now pumps an estimated 100,000 gallons of groundwater each day to make its product. Big withdrawals like this — particularly from wells close to the shoreline — can cause saltwater intrusion into the drinking water aquifers. A recent study has shown that saltwater is much closer to the surface in the Cape Charles area than in other places on the Eastern Shore.
“The town’s wastewater treatment plant produces 150,000 gallons of cleaned water each day and pumps it into the harbor. [County official Tim] Hayes suggested saving groundwater by connecting the two with a pipeline so that the concrete plant can use the water that the sewage plant is dumping.”
It’s not known why nothing came of that proposal. But if the 1996 usage estimates are similar to today’s, requiring Bayshore Concrete to hook up to Town utilities could almost double the Town’s water and sewer volumes, resulting in a huge increase in efficiency.
The Town of Cape Charles annexed Bayshore Concrete in 1991 along with the Bay Creek resort properties. The annexation agreement states that “if awarded annexation of the Bayshore Property the Town will not extend public sewer or public water service lines to within 100 feet of Bayshore’s property line within ten years following the effective date of annexation unless a bonafide health emergency exists.”
So, according to the annexation agreement, the Town could have run pipes to Bayshore as long ago as 2001. The increased efficiencies could have brought lower water and sewer rates for Town residents and businesses for the past 12 years.
Why the Town failed to act in 2001, and continues to ignore Bayshore Concrete today, is an open question.
Although Bayshore has not “done an analysis,” it appears obvious that the Town’s high water and sewer rates are the reason it never hooked up.
Town utility rates for commercial users over 15,000 gallons per month are $5 per thousand gallons of water and $7.80 per thousand gallons of wastewater.
That equals $12.80 per thousand gallons. If Bayshore uses 100,000 gallons per day, its cost for Town water and sewer would be $1,280 per day.
The Town’s rate schedule discourages water consumption and sewerage by charging higher rates for increased use.
The Town borrowed money in 2010 to drill three additional wells but has never hooked up the wells due to lack of demand. Funds borrowed to hook up the wells were subsequently spent to purchase the Bank of America building for use as a library.