A water quality fix for Louisa?
by Scott Shenk, originally posted on September 10, 2016
One obstacle has been cleared in an effort to fix water-quality problems that have plagued the town of Louisa since 2009, but there are still lingering issues.
For the past seven years, the town has contended with contamination issues with the water it buys from the Louisa County Water Authority.
Last year, the Virginia Department of Health issued an order requiring the town to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for drinking water.
The town has until February to bring the drinking water for its 760 customers into compliance.
Town Manager Tom Filer said it hasn’t been easy trying to fix the problem, and the primary hurdle appears to be bureaucracy.
One solution is to dig a well at a park the town created through a federal grant. There is a conservation easement on the park property, however, which has blocked plans for the well, Filer said.
He said the well could be built at the park, which has a playground, but the National Park Service contends that federal law would require the town to find another parcel to replace the park.
Filer said building the well already comes with a hefty price tag of about $2.3 million, of which $1 million has already been spent. And that buying a replacement park parcel would only add to the cost, which would have to be borne by town residents. And many of the residents are on fixed incomes or welfare, he said.
If the town goes through with building a well, Filer said residents’ water bills would rise between 20 percent and 30 percent.
There is a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives aimed at solving the issue over the property raised by the park service, and there was positive movement on it this week. Proposed by 7th District Rep. Dave Brat, it would allow the well to be built without the federal land-use restriction.
That bill last week passed the House Committee on Natural Resources, but needs full House approval.
Filer is happy about the bill passing the committee, but he contends there is a better solution, one already in the works.
The county’s water authority is in the process of upgrading its system with “nanofiltration” technology, which Filer believes would fix the town’s water-quality problem. The project is expected to be completed in February, which is the deadline for the town to bring its drinking water into compliance with EPA standards.
It’s unclear if the town will get a chance to see if the water authority’s system upgrade will fix the problem before having to build a new well.
“It’s absolutely possible,” Filer said. “Why can’t we wait?”