PSA looks to add more customers as regulatory issues persist with city

The Henry County Public Service Authority (PSA) Board discussed regulatory issues and ways to attract additional customers at its October meeting.

By Brandon Martin

Plans for a waterline extension on Clearview Drive could lead to savings for the Henry County Public Service Authority (PSA), according to local officials.

Tim Pace, director of engineering, said the project had been in the works for almost a year and a half.

“There are 3-4 roads off of Clearview that we purchase water from the City of Martinsville,” he said. “We had to send out notices because of the water quality and THMs (Trihalomethanes).”

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, THMs are the result of a reaction between the chlorine used for disinfecting tap water and natural organic matter in the water. At elevated levels, THMs have been associated with negative health effects such as cancer and adverse reproductive outcomes.

Mike Ward, director of regulatory compliance, said that “it was probably as much of a regulatory issue–copper sampling, THM issues–where we didn’t have a lot of control. The city couldn’t really give us the good quality water that we wanted.”

To have more control over the water quality, Pace said that the PSA began looking at alternatives.

“We all agreed that it would be in the best interest of us, since we ran that new line to connect (U.S.) 58 East to the Philpott system, to come off of that line and pick up those customers,” Pace said. “We had agreed to purchase the material and the PSA construction/maintenance staff would install that.”

Due to loss of staff and the coronavirus pandemic, however, Pace said that the team would likely not be able to construct the new waterline themselves. As a result, he contacted Wells Construction, a contractor that helped with a rehabilitation project in Collinsville.

“We negotiated a price with them to do an install and it would be $141,225,” Pace said. He also requested another $14,112 for contingency. “You never know what you might run into with installation.”

Currently, Pace said the PSA has a master meter connection with the city where customers are charged by the PSA and the City of Martinsville is reimbursed for supplying the connection.

“Plus we are responsible for their water to our customers,” Pace added. “We are responsible for all of their regulatory issues” if there are any issues.

Tim Hall, PSA general manager and county administrator, said the project has been discussed in-depth among staff.

“Sometimes we have to pay a penance for a sin that we didn’t create,” Hall said. “There are some regulatory issues and we are on the hook for them because they are technically our customer. If we can eliminate that variable going forward, I think it is probably wise.”

Hall said there have been “off and on” issues with regulatory compliance for water provided to city-based customers.

Ward said that it cost about $0.50 more per customer to provide the water from the city instead of from Philpott.

Pace said the PSA is already approximately $50,000 invested into the Clearview Drive project. The board unanimously approved $149,177 to be spent from reserves to fund the project further.

In a memo sent to Hall on Oct. 19, Ward said that since May, the PSA has experienced “excessively high flows” at the Koehler Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Ward said that during July, the average flows were 1.2 million gallons per day (mgd), even though the month was “very dry.”

He added that this is 0.4 mgd higher than previous months that were equally as dry.

“The City of Martinsville currently charges the PSA $1.35 per 1,000 gallons of sewer treated,” Ward said in the memo. “At this rate, the PSA is spending approximately $17,000 per month ($210,000 per year) more than normal just on this excess flow with no revenue at all from these costs.”

After PSA staff inspected sewer lines in the area, they found issues “which are near the river and creeks in Fieldale, Stanleytown and Bassett areas,” Ward said, and described the issues as “minor problems.”

He added that the staff doesn’t believe the issues “are nearly enough to account for the amount of inflow and infiltration issues we have been seeing for the last five months.”

The board approved a transfer of $50,000 from the general fund to cover the cost of a $29,000 base investigation and an additional $20,000 for “any unanticipated investigation and camera work” that the PSA staff is not able to perform.


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