PSA Defies Board of Supervisors on Route 13 Sewerage

Cape Charles Wave

November 24, 2014

Northampton’s Public Service Authority voted November 18 to construct a wastewater collection system to run from the Cheriton area of Route 13 to the Cape Charles sewer plant, contingent on funding. The vote would appear to fly in the face of a September 23, 2013, decision by the county Board of Supervisors to table any further action on a sewer pipe to Cape Charles. Facing overwhelming public opposition at the time, then-Chairman Willie Randall said, “We heard you, we listened, there will be no action on this plan until we get a better understanding of what to do.”

Supervisors’ meetings over the past year reveal no “better understanding” today than before. In fact, a Supervisors meeting tonight (November 24) will discuss using the Bayview treatment plant instead of Cape Charles —  an option not under active consideration by the PSA.

On paper, the PSA is an independent body, with four members appointed by participating municipalities and five members appointed at large by the Board of Supervisors. But while the PSA can vote to do whatever it wants, it has no taxing authority. The Board of Supervisors allocated $130,000 for the PSA in last year’s budget, $58,000 of which has been spent for sewer pipe engineering studies by the firm of Hurt and Profitt. But no money was allocated to the PSA for the current budget year.

PSA Chairman John Reiter (At Large) said that although the PSA is not yet ready to construct the sewer pipe, he requested authorization “to execute the contract at such time as the BOS approves the special tax district and mandatory connections and wants us to go forward.” J.T. Holland (At Large), Bob Panek (Cape Charles),  and Felton Sessoms (Nassawadox) joined Reiter in approving the motion.  Taylor Dukes (Exmore) and Greg Hardesty (Cheriton) voted against it.

Following the vote, Dukes said, “What I feel from the public is, they’re not for it.” He said he could not see supporting something the public is vocally against. Hardesty reported that business owners in Cheriton are not only opposed to the project, “they are vehemently opposed to it.”


Prior to the vote, during public comments, speaker Bill Prosise asked why the sewer line plans included extending service from Parsons Circle southward 2,000 feet. His question went unanswered.

The cost for sewerage on the highway depends in part on how much the Town of Cape Charles charges to accept wastewater. More than a year after the PSA requested cost estimates from the town, no agreement has been reached. Cape Charles Town Council has informally proposed 1.5 cents per gallon, but negotiations remain at the sub-committee stage. Meanwhile, Hurt and Profitt estimates for pipe construction has increased from $1.8 million to $2.4 million.

PSA Chairman Reiter said that the project should take 19 months from the time it is funded and approved to completion.

The PSA Route 13 commercial project is linked to the rezoning and zoning ordinance changes that the BOS currently has under consideration. Some of the properties in the Route 13 commercial project area are not currently zoned commercial but will be under the rezoning.

A petition presented to the Supervisors a year ago with 266 signatures stated: “We the undersigned, Northampton County residents and business owners, say NO to commercial development outside of towns at taxpayers’ expense. We oppose running a sewer pipe from Cape Charles to Route 13 that will encourage commercial strip development, and we oppose the higher property taxes the Board of Supervisors plan to charge to pay for it.”

The Route 13 commercial sewer project began when the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, chaired by Realtor Bill Parr, invited then-PSA Chairman Bob Panek to speak to them about the PSA at their March 1, 2012, meeting. The CPAC was tasked by the Board of Supervisors to create an Economic Development Plan to be included in the County’s Comprehensive Plan and to serve in a review function for the whole Comprehensive Plan.

At that time the PSA was still focused on the “Northern Node” around the hospital in Nassawadox and the Town of Exmore. Following the CPAC meeting, the PSA, under Panek’s leadership, revised its plans to focus on commercial property about a mile in each direction on and near the Route 13 Cape Charles/Cheriton stoplight.



7 Responses to “PSA Defies Board of Supervisors on Route 13 Sewerage”

  1. David Boyd on November 24th, 2014 10:12 am

    Except for a couple of dissenting members, the PSA seems to think they are above needing any input from either the Board of Supervisors or the citizens of Northampton County. Getting 266 signatures on a petition and having over 100 people turn out in opposition to this “southern node” project should speak volumes about how Northampton County residents view this project. It’s time we disband the PSA and move on with projects we really need.

  2. Don & Deborah Bender on November 24th, 2014 11:04 am

    The citizens of Northampton need to wake up and fight the Board of Supervisors and the PSA. There is no reason at all for the PSA to be chumming up to business people. They are a PUBLIC service authority not a BUSINESS service authority. The PSA is not looking out for the PUBLIC in any way, shape or form. EVERY CITIZEN of Northampton county needs to be at the December 9th meeting of the Board of Supervisors and tell them we do not want to pay for the pipe because we do not NEED the pipe. DISBAND THE PSA NOW!

  3. Steve Downs on November 24th, 2014 1:25 pm

    Simple solution for the BOS is to NOT PROVIDE FUNDING FOR THE PSA! Without money they can’t do the dirty deed. Shame on them all for not listening to the wishes of the citizens of Northampton County.

  4. J T Elliott on November 24th, 2014 2:53 pm

    The County Administrator, Katherine Nunez, is also listed as the Executive Director of the PSA. What happened to the memo she must have written to herself telling the PSA that her Board of Supervisors had tabled the Cape Charles area sewer line?

  5. Mike Steelman on November 25th, 2014 8:31 am

    The PSA showed a complete disrespect to the Board of Supervisors and the citizens by not [attending the November 24 BOS meeting]. Except Mr. Hardesty! They were considering this huge burden as presented. Now a new option is to take the sewage that is currently being treated without fail and pump it to Bayview for a second treatment! Where are those in need? I hear no squeaky wheels!

    Let’s look at what the EPA says on the mater: EXCESSIVE ENGINEERING and REGULATORY OVERKILL (EPA 832-R-97-001B). In short the EPA made a report to Congress that recognized that onsite disposal systems can often protect the environment as well or better than centralized systems. There are many advantages to DECENTRALIZED treatment systems, especially for LOW DENSITY COMMUNITIES. Our option at this time is to realize our assets as a community and help those that are driving our community instead of punishing them with this idea that a centralized sewer is going to bring us prosperity. It did not work with the SUSTAINABLE TECHNOLOGIES PARK with a treatment facility in the same Park! Going forward with this project could have as much negative impact as a positive one at this time. STOP WASTING TIME AND MONEY — dissolve the PSA!

  6. David Boyd on November 25th, 2014 8:41 pm

    Mike Steelman is absolutely correct. There is a book being circulated locally, called “The Septic System Owner’s Manual” by Lloyd Kahn, that describes how septic systems operate. It gives a number of examples of small towns faced with the same situation we are facing locally. It is very well documented and is replete with references to case studies, EPA guidelines and literature supporting its conclusions.

    Here are a few quotes from the EPA regarding decentralized septic systems:
    “On June 28, 2013, EPA released a model program for onsite wastewater treatment systems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help states more effectively prevent nutrients from entering the Bay from onsite or septic systems, which will improve water quality. When properly designed, sited and maintained, decentralized systems like septic systems can treat wastewater effectively and protect surface water and groundwater.” (

    Nearly one in four households in the United States depends on an individual septic system (also referred to as an onsite system) or small community cluster system to treat their wastewater.

    These various types of decentralized wastewater treatment, if properly executed, can protect public health, preserve valuable water resources, and maintain economic vitality in a community. EPA concluded in its 1997 Response to Congress (PDF) (101 pp, 5.8MB, About PDF) that “adequately managed decentralized wastewater systems are a cost-effective and long-term option for meeting public health and water quality goals, particularly in less densely populated areas.” (

    Not only can well maintained septic systems treat effluent just as effectively as centralized systems, for far less investment, but they offer the unique benefit of returning the cleansed effluent to the watershed from which it was obtained. Centralized sewer systems, on the other hand, alter the natural distribution of water flow by withdrawing water from one watershed and introducing it to another.

    Central sewer systems are necessary in areas of high population density, but the EPA has concluded that well designed and maintained decentralized systems are just as effective in treating effluent and far more cost effective in low density areas, like Northampton County. Decentralized systems also offer benefits like maintaining the recharge rates of individual aquifers, that aren’t feasible in centralized systems.

    Finally, it is important to note that where studies have been done to document what pollution was found to be present in local creeks (bacterial source testing), only a very small percentage of that pollution was human in origin — for example, 14% in King’s Creek according to the TMDL plan for that watershed. In every local watershed that has been tested, wildlife has been the primary contributor to fecal coloform readings.

    We don’t have a big septic problem in Northampton County — let’s not invent one.

  7. Donna Bozza on November 25th, 2014 8:44 pm

    This is clear, comprehensive reporting. Thank you for helping the citizenry understand the critical but often complicated issues we face.