Town Council OKs $28,000 to Stop ‘Red Tide’ in Harbor

Water sample taken from Town Harbor at floating docks near discharge pipe. (Wave photo)

Cape Charles Wave

November 25, 2013

Cape Charles is “under the gun” to stop pumping untreated backwash directly into the Town Harbor.

Public Works Director Dave Fauber told Town Council November 21 that the Virginia DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) has ordered Cape Charles to cease discharging excessive amounts of iron- and manganese-laden water into the Chesapeake Bay. The Wave first reported the “red tide” in August after a resident observed the discharge and expressed concern.

Ironically, the Town only began the unlawful discharge after completion of the new $19 million sewer treatment plant. Previously, backwash was directed into the old treatment plant’s polishing pond.

But, “when the new wastewater treatment plant was built and the old polishing pond demolished, the discharge from the water treatment plant backwash was sent directly into the harbor,” Fauber said. Council approved his recommendation to expand a backwash vault at a cost of approximately $28,000 to allow metal solids to settle before the water is discharged into the Bay.


In other Council business, Assistant Town Manager Bob Panek asked approval to spend up to $15,000 to complete a storm water analysis as part of future plans to discharge a portion of Town wastewater into the Bay Creek lake system instead of the Chesapeake Bay.

Panek noted that the Town has already spent $260,000 to design the possibility of effluent reuse into the new sewer plant. But it could be many years before any treated wastewater is actually directed to Bay Creek. “There is no urgency,” Panek said, because DEQ allows the Town to discharge up to 250,000 gallons a day into the Bay. Current discharge is only about 150,000 gallons per day. Council approved his request.

Panek also gave an update on plans by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Public Service Authority (which he chairs) to provide sewer service to selected commercial properties on and near Route 13.  The Northampton County Board of Supervisors has already included 25 percent of the cost in this year’s budget, with the remainder planned to come from commercial property owners. But Panek said the PSA voted November 18 to suggest to the Board of Supervisors that it consider upping the County’s contribution to 50 percent.

Town Council set a joint public hearing December 10 with the Planning Commission on changes to the Town sign ordinance. Another public hearing is set for December 19 on soliciting bids for an easement for a proposed watermen’s memorial at the Town Harbor. (The Harbor Area Review Board has not yet approved the proposed memorial.) A third public hearing in December is already scheduled December 5 on refinancing and borrowing up to another $1 million.

Town Manager Heather Arcos reported that the Town was asking Northampton County to contribute the following amounts to the Town:

Library:  $20,000 (annual cost $119,000)
Computer Training Lab: $20,000 (cost not indicated)
July 4th fireworks:  $8,000 (cost $15,000)
Public Beach Operations: $10,000 (annual cost $75,000)
Offshore Breakwater: $75,000 (cost $800,000)

Arcos said the Town asks the County for money each year. A similar request last year resulted in a contribution of $20,000 toward the library, but none of the other areas.



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