SMITHFIELD — The town of Smithfield might not have to build a $5 million water treatment plant to remove excess fluoride from its water.
Smithfield, which is under a consent order with the Virginia Department of Health to reduce fluoride levels, has long been ready to get construction bids on a reverse osmosis water treatment facility.
That project has been stymied by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s refusal to issue the necessary groundwater withdrawal permit for the past 18 months, although the end appears to be in sight. Scott Kudlas, the DEQ’s director of surface and groundwater planning, said he expects the agency will be able to issue the new permit to Smithfield within six months.
But the town now has another option — to buy the water already treated.
Isle of Wight County and Suffolk’s newly brokered deal to buy surplus water from Norfolk for the next 40 years gives the county a source to feed long-term residential and commercial development throughout the county. The Western Tidewater Water Authority unveiled an agreement two weeks ago that ultimately will let the two localities pump up to 15 million gallons of water per day from Norfolk’s lakes in Suffolk.
The plan, which would begin with 3 million gallons in 2014 and gradually increase, gives Suffolk 75 percent of the cost and water, with the balance earmarked for Isle of Wight County. According to the water agreement, Isle of Wight will pay $6.6 million for water reservation — a fee that guarantees Norfolk will hold the water until needed — and $87.1 million for the water itself over the 40-year span of the deal.
Additionally, the county will also be responsible for $50 million in related infrastructure during the time period, said Supervisor Al Casteen, who is opposed to the plan.
“We’ll have the water available if Smithfield wants it,” said Isle of Wight County Supervisor Thomas Wright, who also is chairman of the Western Tidewater Water Authority.
The water will be treated at the Robert G. House Water Treatment Plant in Chuckatuck before being pumped to Isle of Wight County.
County officials are crunching numbers to determine how much they would have to charge if Smithfield buys water from Isle of Wight. The town expects to get its first glimpse of those figures at a joint committee meeting with county representatives on Aug. 3.
Town officials say it’s too early to say whether they would be willing to scrap their water treatment plans to buy water from the county.
Besides cost, the town has to consider that the water won’t be available for another five years and the immediacy of its consent order deadlines, said Mayor Dave Hare.
The town supplies about 200,000 gallons of water per day to county residents who live just outside Smithfield, in Gatling Point and Battery Park.
Although the county has been paying for the water, the town is likely to begin receiving an equivalent amount of water in lieu of payment once the new water agreement comes to fruition.
“It’s a business decision,” said Smithfield Town Manager Peter Stephenson. “It will boil down to what is best for the town and our customers.”
Reverse osmosis is a filtration process used to remove impurities, sediment and excess minerals from raw water supplies. The town determined it was the most cost-effective type of water purification system to reduce fluoride levels in the water supply.
Copyright © 2009, Newport News, Va., Daily Press