On the surface, it may appear that pollutants will have an easier time manifesting themselves in the Dan River as a result of South Boston Town Council voting at its Monday meeting to amend town code (Section 106-182) changing pollutant limitations at the South Boston Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Look below the surface, Halifax County Service Authority Director Mark Estes told council while citing a number of reasons for adding new limits for six parameters and reducing local limits for one parameter, mostly as incentives for economic development.
At its November meeting, the Halifax County Service Authority Board approved the changes, including increased local limits for cadmium, chromium, copper, cyanide, lead and nickel and zinc and new limits for arsenic, mercury, selenium, ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids.
Local limits for silver were relaxed, and limits were added for arsenic, mercury, molybdenum, selenium, ammonia, biochemical oxygen demand and total suspended solids.
Biochemical oxygen demand, also called biological oxygen demand, is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms to break down organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over a specific time period.
Runoff from heavily salted roadways contaminates groundwater and can reach levels that are toxic to plants and animals living in streams and lakes.
Total suspended solids are a way to measure dirt and some other pollutants in runoff.
Estes cited the primary reasons for increasing local limits, including reducing the cost for industries of pre-treating wastewater before it is discharged into the Dan River.
“The less stringent limits takes some of that pretreatment requirement off of them, and they can discharge directly to us,” Estes explained. “It lowers the cost of doing business with them, and we can treat it on our end.”
Economic development is a very competitive process, and when new industries are evaluating the potential to locate or relocate to a new area, one of the primary concerns is the capacity of the community/local utilities to provide water and sewer capacity as well as the associate local limits.
Improvements at the Maple Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant have enhanced the treatment process, allowing it to treat pollutants more effectively, and that allows it to absorb the increased limits.
Unnecessary stringent local limits may require an industry to pre-treat their wastewater to a degree that is greater than needed, resulting in additional treatment costs to the industry, including the costs of additional chemicals, lab tests and manpower, according to Estes.
Failure to meet a more stringent local limit may result in the need to implement some type of enforcement action by the HCSA, when that exceeded permit level did not adversely impact the wastewater treatment plant, Estes added.
Some members of council, including Michael Byrd asked why the local limit for silver was decreased, from 1.47 to 0.9 milligrams per liter.
Elements of silver can be found in fish tissue and can be harmful to wildlife who consume fish as well as people who consume fish with higher than safe levels of silver, Estes told council
“Silver is soluble in water and more efficient to remove,” Estes answered, noting the increased capacity of the Maple Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant to treat pollutants such as silver.
Mayor Ed Owens asked if there was a procedure in place to track industry and other dischargers into the Dan River.
Estes explained the HCSA requires identified dischargers submit water samples to them on a quarterly basis.
Agricultural discharge can be harder to trace unless the source can be identified, Estes told council.
Council also supported a General Assembly bill sponsored by Halifax Delegate James Edmunds relating to an additional local sales and use tax for counties and cities when they unanimously passed a resolution at Monday’s meeting.
Vice-Mayor Tina Wyatt-Younger made the motion to adopt the resolution, with a second from Byrd.
The resolution expressed council’s support of House Bill No. 1634 to be presented Monday by Edmunds during this session of the Virginia General Assembly to enact legislation allowing localities to charge additional sales tax, conditioned upon a local referendum approving the sales tax.
Revenue generated from such a tax would be returned to localities for the purpose of providing funding for public school capital improvement and building purposes.
Town Manager Tom Raab said Halifax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Lineburg has asked him to speak Monday to the General Assembly in Richmond on behalf of council in support of the resolution.
“Tommy Wright and James Edmunds will present the bill around 8 a.m., on Monday, and he (Edmunds) has asked me if I would bring it up to Richmond and present it,” Raab told council, adding, “And I told him I’d gladly do that.”
Council also on Monday gave unanimous approval to a recommendation by the South Boston Planning Commission to rezone tax parcels 2849 and 2850 located at 1010 Logan Street from R-2 medium density residential to B-3 central business district in order for the property to be used as a salon, boutique and spa.
Monica Edmonds of Aster Place in South Boston, representing The Stonewall Trust, spoke in favor of the rezoning, telling council the rezoning would allow her to operate a salon and boutique “bringing revenue and awareness to the community.”
Property owner Scott Raab also spoke in favor of the rezoning, with Councilman Bob Hughes making the motion to approve the request that received a second from Byrd.
No one spoke in opposition to the request.
In another agenda item, council heard a bi-annual update from Halifax County-South Boston Library System Director Jay Stephens, who told council that a new branch manager, Chris Baker, has been hired.
Stephens also updated council on upcoming offerings at the library, including possible programs sponsored by the AARP on avoiding fraud and scams and tax preparation for senior citizens.
Also Monday, council came out of closed session prior to the beginning of Monday’s meeting and voted unanimously to appoint Ken Buckley to the South Boston Planning Commission to replace Councilwoman Sharon Harris.
Council also voted unanimously to re-appoint Ronnie Pate to another four-year term on the South Boston Planning Commission.
In other action, council voted unanimously to appoint Linda Carrington to the Halifax County Improvement Council, adopted a town mission statement and approved its 2019 meeting calendar.
After holding a closed door session to discuss the town manager’s annual evaluation, council came back into open session and approved a 6 percent pay increase for Raab.
Raab currently earns an annual salary of $110,000 which will now increase to $116,600 following council’s Monday night vote.