Millions to Fix RWSA Stink

The neighborhood around the RSWA sewage plant smells like shit. It’ll cost between $6M-$33M to fix that.  #

20 Responses to “Millions to Fix RWSA Stink”


  • I believe the RWSA has tried to fix the smell at least twice. While not getting rid of it entirely, many old timers will agree that it doesn’t smell no where near as bad as it used to. I remember a kid that sat next to me in school who said he missed school when he couldn’t get the odor out of his clothes. I guess the technology has improved dramatically.

  • This is an issue that will never be fully “fixed” unless the area ceases to grow, and even then, the technology will continue to evolve and improve. It is a huge mistake to think that there will ever be a final single fix that ends this debate. This issue will need to be managed for the foreseeable future and should be a part of the long range plans and budget for Charlottesville and Albemarle annually, not just in enormous chunks. We are in this predicament because our leadership has chosen to ignore the signs that the problem continues. Citizens have been voicing concerns about this for many, many years. If you look at local coverage over the last 5 years or so you will see that it has been featured, and those closest and most affected have been involved for decades.

    The fact that the problem used to be worse is a red herring. We also used to dump untreated sewage into the rivers and streams, but that is no longer acceptable “management”. It would be reasonable that the management of the City/County/RWSA would have expected to address this and other infrastructure upgrades at some point, but they all seem to be acting surprised by the costs and needs all coming at the same time, despite warning signs for years. Why haven’t they been budgeting to fix the aging systems and the smell issue? If they paid as much attention to the water/sewer infrastructure as they do the downtown mall, we would be in fine shape.

  • Amen, Elsie. Quite simply, it’s high time for the design of Moore’s Creek to become state of the art. No other alternative, sorry. If the dollars look large, consider how much growth there is in the county that will need this plant (far, far cheaper to properly retrofit Moores Creek rather than build a new one) for sewage and septage (new word I learned the RWSA meeting). Figure: a 2.3% surcharge on the 4800 homes slated for Biscuit Run, Hollymead, and Rivanna Village (assuming average price tags of $400K) would cover the biggest dollar amount put forward by the RWSA consultants. Folks, this can be done just as soon at the developer-in-charge of RWSA and county officials decide it will be done. And if they don’t, the stink (both senses of the word) is just going to get worse.

  • The City and County tax payers will not be fixing anything, the users will through increases in their sewer rates. Human waste has always smelled, what’s new. The RWSA can only reduce the smell AFTER it is treated. My question and a lot of ofther peoples is why would people move there knowing the funk has been there as long as the treatment plant has been there? My answer is housing has been, until recently, some of the cheapest in town. Now a bunch of people have moved in with the expectation of raising a lot of stink to get rid of a lot of stink by raising a lot of stink. By buying cheap several decades ago and spreading the cost of reducing the smell over all of the customers, the residents have made a great real estate deal. I have no sympathy.

  • Going down I-64 after dark you can clearly smell the odor. The later in the evening the stronger the smell. But they’ve always had that problem. When the treatment plant was located off of Rio Road you could often smell the odor, although perhaps not as frequently as at the current location.

  • The neighborhoods existed long before the treatment plant. I don’t see this issue as any different than the City using tax payer dollars to improve the mall and increase the housing values of those who live nearby. We all pay whether we go downtown or not. Some people benefit more than others. We all pay for the police who patrol more heavily in crime ridden areas. The idea is to make the city a better place and that each area has its own challenges. I don’t think it is reasonable to suggest that the burden of the waste produced should fall on one area or that the areas burdened in the same way I don’t believe those who live in areas of heavy crime should just have to live with it so that we don’t all have to pay for the extra police force. Certainly reducing crime in these areas would bring their property values up. Should the residents not say anything and never hope for anything better?

  • RWSA is not supported by tax dollars. Right now the users in the City will have to come up with at least an additional $45M to upgrade the water and sewer lines. Now, with Charlottesville having to go top dollar on everything, we’re being asked to pay for an additional $33M for the treatment plant and help pay $142M for the reservoir. Whew!

  • Well, a big part of odor (we were told) comes from the antiquated septic off-loading site. Fix that via septic fee increases and City users won’t be charged.

    As for our fair city “having to go top dollar on everything”–this one sure isn’t about bragging rights. It’s about our health and well-being. Landfills used to leak and nobody cared. Now we care. Same with this smell. It needs to get fixed. Soon we’ll be talking about fixing industrial plants so that they don’t coat adjacent neighborhoods with cement dust. This is called progress.

  • Yes, not tax dollars, but the same idea, we all pay for improvements/upgrades/changes/maintenance. I would think good long term management would have identified these needs long ago and planned for them in resonable bits rather than all at once.

  • Cville Eye, your ignorance (and that of “a lot of other people”) regarding the history of the Carlton and Woolen Mills neighborhoods and the people who live there is staggering. Don’t you have anything better to throw out than the tired old “it’s because of the evil yuppies!” song-n-dance?

    I have an idea for you, if you’re brave enough, that is: Go ahead Cville Eye, and knock on every single door there, and you tell those people face-to-face why YOU think they should accept a neighborhood that smells like raw sewage… a considerable portion of which was contributed directly by you, no doubt. Tell them that you’re good enough to create it and flush it in their direction, but people like them were born to smell it.

    Do you seriously think that these people should have had to put up with this for all these years? And do you think that we are somehow ruining things for you because we’re fighting for a wrong to be righted? The only reason that plant was approved for location right next to two residential neighborhoods, and also the many expansions approved over the years, was because they assured the citizens and municipal government that they’d address any odor problems.

    These neighbors have been pleading for decades to get this problem fixed. The RWSA under its previous management chose to ignore the complaints and do nothing. So now they’re going to have to cough up a big chunk of change to fix their multi-decade mistake. If you don’t like it, take it up directly with the RWSA and leave the citizens alone.

    Yeah sewage smells. But here’s a news flash– sewage treatment plants don’t HAVE to stink.

  • V.D. ignorance tells me that it was put there because the property was ZONED for it. I’m sure the statement is simple enough for even you to understand.

  • Again– why do you think these people have deserve this?

  • Coincidentally, I read an article on this very topic in the current Harper’s. The article, sadly, is not available online. The author explains that one of the most important tasks for a sewage plant is to avoid producing an odor. The plant that he visits in New York, which cost something like a billion dollars to produce, spent 10% of the construction costs — $100M — on odor reduction. That’s not presented as news, but as a routine fact of building sewage treatment plants.

    I have to wonder how much was spent on odor reduction for our current plant.

  • For the same reason that people who move next to an airport should put up with the noise or move and fifty years ago people who moved next to a dump should put up with the smoke from open air burning or move. I am well aware that some of the residents wish to rid that area of all vestiges of its industrial history and turn it into a solely residential neighborhood through re-zoning and historic designation. It was once remarked in a public setting that Allied Concrete should move. Some citizens opposed the expansion of an electric repair company (Robertson’s I think). Years ago some one suggested the City remove the hull of Woolen Mills. People have willfully moved into that area with all of those uses and should accept the neighboring facilities or move out. Then they won’t have to put up with the stench, the trucks, or the unfashionable storage units.

  • Waldo, a bunch of money was spent twice on that facility I believe in the seventies and then again in the eighties. Each time the technology that was available at the time was employed at considerable expense. Each time the residents said it was better but not completely gone and, as someone noted, some days were worse than others. My main point is that with RWSA about to enter into a very expensive reservoir project and sewer line upgrades north west of the city with all of its expenses being passed on to it customers, the City and County users, and the City about to upgrade its water and sewer lines to the tune of $45M to be passed on to its users, the treatment plant in Woolen Mills should wait. Its time for our governmental agencies to start scheduling projects according to a list of priorites and not try to do everything at once. I just read where the average water bill in the City is $65. It wasn’t that long ago when it was $25. The ever-rising cost of living in the City is breaking people’s backs.

  • What does a 1950s era sewage treatment plant LOCATED IN BELMONT-CARLTON, THE NEXT NEIGHBORHOOD OVER, have to do with the pending historic district in our neighborhood?

    No one is trying to remove the industrial vestiges of the Woolen Mills through historic designation, rather we’re actually preserving the heritage of the mill village. I live in the circa 1840 house of my ancestor, the Mill president. The descendants of the mill villagers support the district, as do many of the elderly folks who have lived here their entire lives. I’m curious as to why you have such a problem with it. You don’t live here, it’s no skin off your nose. So why are you so troubled by it?

    The trucks were cutting through the neighborhood from another neighborhood, they were not originating from here– big difference. No one has had a problem with the trucks coming from Security Van Lines, which is located in the mill building. We have very cordial relations with the owner. We respect his right to do business under that zoning. He respects the fact that his business is located in a tiny industrial portion of a much larger residential neighborhood. If there are issues, we work it out together.

    It was JLK (not Robertson, as you stated) that wanted to move their plumbing business into the neighborhood, and they wanted to upzone a residential parcel they’d bought in order to do so. The neighborhood did not want the parcel upzoned for obvious reasons.

  • Well, Ms. Dunham, the only thing I can say at this point is I doubt if the RWSA is going to give your propsed project a high priority given all that is on its plate.

  • RWSA closed the composting yard at our insistence. I’m confident they’ll start making r, netrofits, not as fast as we would like, but a whole lot faster than if the neighbors said nothing.

    Feel free to forgo having the last word, Mr. Eye.

  • Totally off topic, I know, but has anyone ever considered getting the city to buy the old Wollen Mills and convert it into a tourist destination? Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s a really cool piece of history and it’d be nice to have something historic to visit besides T.J.s House

  • According to RWSA Director Tom Frederick, $6 million was budgeted in this year’s capital improvement plan specifically for odor control.

    Some of the initial mitigation steps suggested by the consultant Hazen and Sawyer include building a new inflow station for wastewater, covering up tanks, and finding other ways to contain odor. The firm’s Ron Taylor made a presentation to the RWSA Board on Monday, and we have the audio of that at Charlottesville Tomorrow. We do not have a copy of the powerpoint presentation, but Frederick’s introductory memo which summarizes the various options and their costs can be accessed on the RWSA website.

Comments are currently closed.

Sideblog