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Governor proposes $216.9 million to clean state waters

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Governor proposes $216.9 million to clean state waters

Gov. Bob McDonnell is proposing spending more than $200 million to help clean Virginia’s waters, including the tidal James River in Richmond, where raw sewage still overflows after heavy rains.

If endorsed by the General Assembly, the $216.9 million would be the most for water-quality programs since the state approved $450 million — $200 million in cash and $250 million in bonds — in 2005, officials said.

“It’s an investment for clean water for the governor and his administration,” said Robert C. Steidel, director of public utilities in Richmond.

McDonnell on Monday proposed issuing $200 million in bonds and spending $16.9 million in cash.

Of the bond money, $101 million would help localities reduce pollution from sewage treatment plants over the next several years.

In addition, $40 million would go to Richmond and $19 million to Lynchburg to help those cities’ continuing efforts to modernize their sewer systems.

“This is huge news for Richmond and Lynchburg and for all the other cities with projects in the works,” said Doug Domenech, McDonnell’s secretary of natural resources.

Ann Jennings, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an environmental group, said the money is “absolutely critical” for the state to keep making progress on cleaning the bay.

Particularly important, she said, is the $101 million to help localities upgrade sewage plants — “projects that are required by state law and that many localities have already committed to or begun.”

About $35 million of the bond money would help localities fight storm-water runoff, and about $5 million would go for a sewage plant project in Hopewell, McDonnell officials said.

Most of the $16.9 million in cash would be used to help farmers reduce pollution by fencing cattle out of streams, among other measures.

The $40 million in state aid is critical to Richmond’s ability to prevent untreated sewage and storm water from combining during big storms and overflowing into the James, primarily the tidal waters east of the 14 th Street Bridge.

The city has spent some $300 million in the past 30 years to capture as much “combined sewer overflow” as possible after heavy rains, especially in the heavily used riverfront in the James River Park System west of the bridge, and piping it to the sewage-treatment plant in South Richmond for cleansing before discharging it downriver.

Richmond still has more than $200 million in work to do under a consent order the state approved in 1992 to govern the combined-sewer cleanup, Steidel said. “It is to hold as much as we can and to treat as much as we can at the (sewage) plant.”

City taxpayers also foot much of the bill for the combined-sewer improvements, but Steidel said the work depends on Richmond’s ability to afford it. “We’ve reached our cap of affordability,” he said.

Richmond is nearing completion of a separate $120 million project at the sewage plant to remove nutrients that pollute the bay and its tributaries.

“We plan to make all of this work together,” Steidel said.


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Written by vaphc

December 19, 2012 at 5:04 am

Posted in Storm Water

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