Wednesday, May 21, 2014

High weird

No one wants dirty water. Pollution mitigation and prevention is a good thing. The devil, as usual, is in the details. State and federal mandates and regulations designed to protect the environment are far too complicated, expensive and, sometimes, seemingly contradictory, even right here in little ole Goochland.

In April, the Board of Supervisors voted against taking on the task of enforcing new state-mandated storm water runoff control regulations—for now. They expect to revisit the matter later this year in the hopes that the state will have clarified its own rules.

During a public hearing on April 21, some land owners and developers encouraged the county to take on this function, which would require adding a new engineer to the community development staff. Fees levied on permits would offset some of that cost. Instead, for now, those permits will be handled by the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which will complicate, and lengthen, most construction projects.

The storm water control mandates will allegedly protect further pollution of Chesapeake Bay by dramatically reducing the amount of nasty things, especially the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous, that might be washed into local waterways and make their way to the Bay. Too many nutrients upset the balance of the ecosystem and threaten fish and shell fish habitats. Given the fall off in the oyster and blue crab populations, for instance, this is not an unreasonable concern.

At its May meeting, the supervisors voted unanimously amend a zoning ordinance to add, as a conditional use by special exception, storage of biosolids in DEQ sanctioned facilities and to approve a conditional use permit for biosolids storage on an 1,800 acre cattle farm off of Chapel Hill Road owned by Paul Lanier, who has a contract to apply the substance.

Biosolids, processed waste products from wastewater treatment plants in Richmond, Chesterfield, and Henrico, are applied to selected agricultural sites in Goochland, which hold DEQ issued permits for application of this substance.

Regulations for application of biosolids, which are made available to farmers at no cost, require that the substance be applied in a manner that prevents it from washing into waterways. (Visit for more complete information.) This includes site topography, distance from a waterway, and time of year. According to remarks made by Lanier during hearings before both the Planning Commission and Supervisors, this year’s damp spring complicated the application process, because many fields were too wet to accommodate application equipment.

Biosolids are applied to fields, forests, and land reclaimed from mining operations. In addition to adding nutrients to the soil, biosolids change the composition of soil making it resistant to erosion, which should help to prevent water pollution.
Opponents of biosolids application contend that the substance may be responsible for health issues and raise concerns about the accumulation of heavy metals over time. Much of the research supporting biosolids application seems to have been funded by companies like Synagro and Nutri-blend that are in the biosolids application business. (Visit for more detailed information.)

Before they become incorporated into the soil, biosolids smell, which does not necessarily mean they are bad, but, if you live near a field being treated, the odor can be offensive.

Virginia law allows application of biosolids if done in accordance with state regulations. Localities have very limited power to regulate--and cannot ban—application of biosolids in their jurisdiction.

Biosolids are transported from waste water treatment plants to fields in large tractor trailers. As the application sites are in rural areas--most of the permitted fields in Goochland are west of Rt. 522—this puts big, heavy trucks on roads that are often narrow and winding and better suited to smaller vehicles.

According to the DEQ website, a tractor trailer load of biosolids will treat about two acres of land. As most fields tend to larger than two acres, multiple truck loads are needed.

Lanier contended that the storage facility, which will be partially covered, have a channel system around the border to capture run off, and include a truck wash to ensure that no material falls off departing trucks, will enable more efficient application. Having a facility in which to accumulate sufficient biosolids to do an entire field will also reduce the incidence, as is now prevalent, of tractor trailers simply dumping their contents on a field and leaving it there until it can be spread around.
Applicators are allowed to leave biosolids in a field for up to seven days without spreading it around. The storage facility, where biosolids may be held for up to 45 days, eliminates this practice as the biosolids are not taken to the field until they are applied.

Complaints are monitored by DEQ.

So, one the one hand, every drop of rain that falls on a new parking lot, must be diverted from flushing into streams, yet, with proper permits, it is okay to put biosolids, AKA sewage sludge on fields.

Biosolids have to go somewhere. If they improve soil and ease the fiscal burden of farmers, so much the better. But, if you think about the juxtaposition of extreme storm water runoff management with biosolids application too hard, your hair hurts.

As DEQ runs the biosolids application show, localities have little regulatory power. Taking even the smidgen allowed by the state is a good thing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Business as usual

Having passed the county budget, and set the tax rates last month, the Goochland County Board of Supervisors held a normal monthly meeting on May 6.

Commendations go to the Treasurer’s Office for getting the tax bills out so quickly. They are due June 5.

Board chair Manuel Alvarez, Jr. District 2 announced that the meeting agendas and informational packets were prepared using new software. This will enable online search of past meeting documentation by subject. Alvarez commended IT Director Qiana Foote, Janet Newby, Sara Worley, and “super user” Lisa Beczkiewcz, who prepares the monthly packets, for their hard work on the changes.

County Administrator Rebecca Dickson explained that the new software expedites the workflow of this process, which consumed a great deal of time in the past. The new version packet is much easier to navigate electronically than the old. (See for yourself at under “Board of Supervisors” on the top left of the home page.)

Sally Graham, Executive Director of the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services and Terry Lyn Smith, who oversees the food bank there, reported that over 15,000 pounds of food was donated by the community. Of that, 410 pounds were collected from the administration building alone. Goochlanders are a giving lot!

The Board passed a resolution recognizing May 2014 as Older Citizens Month.

Dan Schardein, Deputy County Administrator for Community Development, said that the Comprehensive Land Use Plan update will be targeted on specific areas where conditions have changed since the 2009 update. He expects that to be ready for Board action around the conclusion of FY 2015, about a year from now, following citizen meetings on the topic.

For those following what seems to have become the “As the Warehouse Turns” Centerville soap opera, a forklift suspending a beam at the approximate height of the proposed structure was deployed on Three Chopt Road, north of Broad Street Road, a hair east of Rt. 288 in the approximate location of the proposed self-store warehouse there. While this illustrates the height of the proposed building, it provides no reference for its nearly 60,000 square foot volume.

Does this help visualize the self-store warehouse?

The next meeting of the Centerville area arterial management plan steering group, will be held May 21. It would be nice if all VDOT attendees for those sessions arrive via a route that forces them to make a left turn at the intersection of Hockett and Broad, so they can experience that death defying experience first-hand.

Speaking of VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “oops”—the supervisors approved the county’s six year secondary road plan. This is a cumbersome and bizarre mechanism to prioritize—and theoretically fund—transportation projects. All too often, by the time a project works its way to the top of the priority list its price tag has ballooned beyond available funds. Goochland is allocated $477,269 to address all road issues for the next six years. For details, see the SSYP presentation in the meeting packet.

The supervisors decided to remove a planned sidewalk between the high school and administration building from the SSYP because costs had skyrocketed, and construction would not start for at least another year. Instead, staff will seek a faster, simpler, more cost effective alternative funded by the county. District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey observed that the VDOT estimate for the sidewalk seemed excessive, but said that a sidewalk is needed there.
About $350,000 of VDOT money in the SSYP earmarked for the sidewalk--whose cost estimates had ballooned to as much as $580,000--was reallocated proportionally to studies of the Blair Road/Route 6 interchange, and the extension of Fairground Road to Route 6 west of Sandy Hook Road.
Alvarez pointed out that the sidewalk is perfect for an alternative transportation funded by the Metropolitan Planning Organization. However, most of Goochland is considered too rural for inclusion in the MPO, so the sidewalk is not eligible.
The realignment of Hockett Road, under county oversight, is on track for engineering in the near future and actual completion next year. This project, as is the pave in place for Ange Road, which will begin after July 1, is fully funded.

After nearly a year’s effort, a draft of the county’s strategic plan will soon be available for citizen comment. Back to back meetings on June 25 and 26 will solicit additional community input. The plan draft will be on the county website for those unable to attend sessions in person. The supervisors encourage everyone to read the plan and offer comments and suggestions.

Ken Peterson, District 5, vowed that the strategic plan is just the beginning of county government’s pledge to serve its citizens, and will not “go into the bottom drawer.” He said that the strategic plan should be used to determine return on investment as the supervisors work through the budget process each year to encourage high return decisions.

Dickson said that the supervisors’ agenda in the future will reflect how each item supports a goal and that the strategic plan is never really done.

Board Vice Chair Susan Lascolette, District 1, said that the strategic plan is all about the citizens and that she would like to see some sort of annual report card, and contended that feedback from people served by county government is an important part of the process.

The Supervisors began their evening deliberations by passing a proclamation honoring Maidens resident Kate Sarfaty for her profound community service on the occasion of her induction into the Department of Parks and Recreation Wall of Fame. Sarfaty is, or has been, involved in many local charitable and non-profit organizations.

In addition to having been a Christmas Mother, Sarfaty, who is currently president of Goochland CASA (Court appointed special advocates for children,) has served as a board member for the Elizabeth Kates Foundation; Center for Rural Culture; and volunteered her time and talents with Meals on Wheels, the Goochland YMCA, the Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services, and Master Gardeners.

The Board unanimously authorized the county administrator to execute a lease with the Goochland Historical Society to use the Old Stone Jail on the Courthouse Green for historical tours, interpretations and exhibits.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Break into prison

This Wednesday, May 7, the Virginia Correctional Center for Women (VCCW) will host its annual Kates Day event. The festivities begin about 3 p.m. at the VCCW, located on River Road West near the water tower in Goochland Courthouse Village.

From 3 to 4:30 p.m., there will be sales of baked goods, raffle tickets, and plants grown by the offenders as part of the horticulture program. Bus transportation is available to the green houses, as are rides to the parking lot with plant purchases.
No cell phones or purses are permitted, but you must have a photo ID to enter the prison. Plastic bags are provided for checkbooks and wallets. Checks are accepted at the sales.

The flowers, vegetables, and house plants produced by the VCCW offenders are beautiful and a bargain. All proceeds help fund educational programs.

The Elizabeth Kates Foundation, named for the first warden of the VCCW, works to help offenders turn their lives around. In addition to the horticulture program, offenders have the opportunity to complete a GED and learn marketable skills so they can be productive citizens when they return to the community.

Kates Day is a great way to brighten your garden and help a good cause.