Friday, March 24, 2006

his master's voice

sound bites

March 13 the director of the local water and sewer authority met with people from east Charlottesville to find out what it is like living near the water treatment plant.

The event comes and goes, then the spinning begins.

The closest one can come to no spin regarding the March 13 meeting between odorantor and odorantees would be to visit the posting by Dan Daniels, a volunteer for the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. It is a recording of the entire meeting between east Charlottesville residents and Bob Wichser, director of Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority operations.

Yesterday, The Hook, local award winning news-weekly, weighed in with a story which covered much of the territory.

In the Hook article, Mr. Wichser notes that some people at the Woolen Mills meeting said they don't smell anything.

Naturally, I wish our political representatives and members of RWSA's board had been in attendance at the meeting.

In the alternative they could listen to the CPN podcast.

If they wanted a condensed, paragraph number one version of the meeting I provide sound bites.

Ackerman- like the rest of the neighbors, the smell is crushing...

Cocke- is it a particulate we are inhaling? Is there some science as to its unquestioned adverse effect on us?

Covert- everything tastes like the sewer, its pretty digusting

Dunham- find an appropriate solution

Emory- the mother of all Johnny Houses

Ewing- the smell is getting worse and worse.


Johns- I find no problem at all.

Jones-Schmidt- Noxious, choking, thick quality of the simply can't breathe

- What is the rationale for keeping the compost operation in its present location?

Unknown- I cannot start a pig sty because of the damage it does to abutting neighbors.

Richards- I can't imagine what is in the air that is affecting us on our physical health level.

Roettger- It's become a joke with my family, that they come to the stinky neighborhood.

Schmidt- The point is, there is a bad smell that is alienating a number of citizens and it needs to be ended.

Wichser- I am director of water and waste water operations.

Wichser- As part of the treatment of the liquid side, solids are generated.

Wichser 02- the basis for why the facility was sited where it is

Wichser 03- I have been there when certain community stakeholders have been somewhat upset with odor issues.

Wichser 04- order of magnitude estimates on enclosing facility

Wichser 05- everyone smells a little bit differently

Wichser 06- the board needs to make the decision and tell us what to do.

Wichser 07- odor is classified more as a nuisance

Wichser 08- wastewater employees are some of the healthiest around

Wichser 09- inorganic organic

Wichser 10- the biosolids have increased

Wichser 11- we will be generating more solids

Wichser 12- additional solids

Wichser 13- growing load

Wichser 14- consider options

Wichser 15- fry an egg


1. Being an unspecified number or quantity: Some people came into the room. Would you like some sugar?
2. Being a portion or an unspecified number or quantity of a whole or group: He likes some modern scupture but not all.
3. Being a considerable number or quantity: She has been directing films for some years now.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I?d like to start by thanking the RWSA for their commitment to composting, and for being open to hearing our comments this evening.

I live in the Marchant mansion. It was built in 1840 and predates the arrival of the sewage treatment plant by well over 100 years. The odors from the sewage treatment plant are something I?ve personally experienced for almost 14 years?other residents on the hilltop for much longer. While other odor-related issues have been dealt with in that time, the composting odors have continued to worsen noticeably over the past 8 years or so. The odors don?t just waft by on a breeze?more typically it?s a blast that hits the hilltop for a minimum of 15 minutes, and quite often lasts an hour or more. This is almost daily occurrence and typically several times a day.

The odors impact our lives on many different levels, only two of which I?ll address this evening. One is from a financial standpoint. We have had a tenant move out within 2 days of arrival due to the fetid compost odor that engulfed our property for a straight 24-hour period. Ethically, I had to break her lease?those are inhumane conditions to expect someone to live under. Prospective tenants tend to view apartments in the early evening, around dinnertime, which is when the fecal odor is usually at its worst. The odor has become so bad, there?s no way that it can explained to prospective tenants as an occasional thing. This is affecting our ability to earn rental income. I honestly don?t know if any of my current tenants can stick it out another year under these conditions, and who could blame them? As the population of the county increases, so will the amount of biosolids that will be composted. The resulting odors will render this hilltop uninhabitable.

On a personal, standard of living level, this situation is harmful and demoralizing. When the odors last for more than 10 minutes, they fill the inside of our house and cause headaches, burning eyes and nausea. It?s the first thing that greets us when we come home from work. We can?t have barbecues? we have a yard, yet it can?t be enjoyed.. We can?t keep our windows open for more than a brief period of time. We?ve frequently been awakened in the middle of the night by the smell.

While composting biosolids is a great idea from an environmental standpoint, the RWSA needs to be sensitive to the fact that they are composting fecal matter next to a residential neighborhood and find an appropriate solution?preferably enclosing the composting area and installing the proper filtration. Thank you.

Comments by Victoria Dunham delivered at Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association Meeting with Bob Wichser, Ph.D., P.E., DEE, Director of Water & Wastewater Operations at Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. Mr Wichser came to hear neighbors' concerns over smells from the composting facility. Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Kevin Lynch and neighbors from the Belmont/Carlton neighborhood also attended.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

the mother of all outhouses

At the dawn of the 20th century there was no City water, gas and sewer in the Woolen Mills Village. People had wells, they heated with wood, coal or fuel oil and they had Johnny houses, out-houses, one and two holers located in their back yards.

At the dawn of the 20th Century, Forty years after the establishment of the Woolen Mills by Henry Clay Marchant, there was no Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority.

At that time The City of Charlottesville had a straight-pipe which ran to the Rivanna River, Presumably the effluent received little treatment. It was dumped into the Rivanna with comments like:

?flush hard, Richmond needs the drinking water.?

Today, following annexation into the City of Charlottesville we have most of the Modern Conveniences. We?ve got running water and indoor plumbing.

The City of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle have a first class outfit, RWSA, which treats and releases waste water received from 5 pumping stations in the area.

In the Woolen Mills neighborhood one paradox has arisen with the arrival of the 21st century.

We have taken our Johnny Houses down. RWSA, our neighbor to the east and south has built the Mother of All Johnny Houses on a hill atop the south banks of the Rivanna River and Moore?s Creek, opposite the Woolen Mill Buildings.

It's an admirable proposition. Dewatered sewage sludge is mixed with wood chips and lime, then composted, via aerobic biological process until all the pathogens are dead.

One problem. This stinking process happens in an open building next to a populated area.

It is time to close the outhouse door. We support the composting program but we want the stench contained.

The odor can be contained with a capital expenditure supported by RWSA users.

This malodorous exploitation of a neighborhood would not stand in Fifeville or Farmington. Why is it ok in the historic Woolen Mills?

Close the Johnny House door, enclose the composting facility.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Kill Devil Hills

If the prouerbe be true,?that a fishe beginneth first to smell at the head,?the faultes of our seruantes will be layed vppon vs.
[1581 G. Pettie tr. S. Guazzo's Civil Conversation iii. 51]

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