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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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City seeks renewal of water permit

Monday, February 3, 2014

Martinsville has asked the state to re-issue a permit for the Water Pollution Control Plant so up to 8 million gallons per day of storm and treated sewage wastewater can continue to be released into the Smith River.

“This is standard,” said Dennis Bowles, director of utilities.

State and/or Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) regulations call for the permit to be reissued every five to six years for that plant as well as for the city’s hydro dam and other water facilities.

The wastewater treatment plant is on Wind Dancer Lane near the Martinsville Industrial Park south of the city.

Currently, the city processes nearly 4.2 million gallons a day, but it is permitted to treat and discharge up to 8 million gallons per day, Bowles said. In case of a surge from heavy rainfall, Bowles said the facility can process up to 16 million gallons per day if needed, “but only for a small amount of time.”

Part of the permitting process requires a legal notice of the request for the permit to be reissued because water is considered a public utility, Bowles said.

Martinsville gets its drinking water from the Beaver Creek Reservoir near Patrick Henry Community College. Water from the city reservoir is treated, used by customers, treated again and then discharged into the Smith River in Ridgeway, which is in the Lower Smith River watershed, according to the permit application and Bowles. A watershed is the land area drained by a river and its incoming streams.

In addition to wastewater used by the estimated 13,000 city residents, the city also treats all the wastewater used by county residents, officials said.

The Henry County Public Service Authority (PSA) uses water mainly from Philpott Lake to provide drinking water to its customers.

Bowles said he considers the wastewater treatment plant a medium-sized operation based on its capacity to process wastewater.

Although its large industrial customers are gone now, Bowles said that when the city treated industrial wastewater for Tultex, the per-day release was between 6 and 7 million gallons. Bassett-Walker, also a large industry, treated its own wastewater, he added.

Bowles said the city contracts with First Piedmont to dispose of the sludge created by the water treatment process. The company takes the sludge to Rougemont, N.C., where it is disposed in the Upper Piedmont Regional Landfill, Bowles said.

The city’s permit request potentially could be denied if the city failed to treat the wastewater properly, but that is not the case, Bowles said. The treated wastewater released into the Smith is cleaner than the existing river water, he said.

Even if the city failed to properly treat the water, a grace period would be granted to give the city — or any other wastewater treatment facility — an opportunity to meet the regulations, he said.

The DEQ, on the authority of the State Water Control Board, will consider the city’s application for the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit. That permit also limits the amount of pollutants — such as organic matter, solids and bacteria — that can be released into the river.

The draft permit and application may be viewed by appointment at the DEQ office.

 

 
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