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Waterline on the table

South Boston News
NEW WATERLINE FOR BANISTER SHORES? - John F. Giese, Petroleum Programs Remediation Manager for the Department of Environmental Quality, fielded questions from about 20 residents of Banister Shores and Lakeside Drive about a proposed new waterline being extended to the area by the Halifax County Service Authority on Thursday afternoon. (SOMcL photo) / May 24, 2010
An estimated 20 residents of Occoneechee Trail and Lake Shore Drive gathered Thursday to hear what officials of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would tell them about the proposed water line to Banister Shores. The session, held by members of the Board of Directors for the Halifax County Service Authority, provided an opportunity for the 19 homeowners who will be affected by the new line to ask questions and air their concerns.

John F. Giese of Richmond who serves as DEQ’s Petroleum Programs Remediation Manager told the group that the offer to construct the eight inch 10,240 foot waterline along U.S. 501 from the VFW building across the Banister River up the hill to former Charlie’s General Store is a “unique opportunity to resolve a problem” that has been in existence since 1994.

Giese explained that $1.072 million has been allocated for the project from stimulus funds and will cover the cost of engineering and construction of the new waterline and will replace individual wells which have suffered from contamination caused by leaking fuel tanks. He noted that the problem has been unresolved since the leakage was first discovered back in 1994 and has required carbon filtration units for the affected wells.

“This stimulus money opens a window of opportunity for us to permanently resolve this problem at no cost to the homeowners,” Giese explained. But, he warned, if the affected homeowners do not want the new waterline, then the money will go to another locality to resolve some other problem.

Letters to all the property owners will go out next week asking for their support or rejection of the project. Giese pointed out there is a short turnaround period for getting the work done since the money must be spent by September 2011, Once people get their letter, he urged them to return them to him quickly so a decision can be made about constructing the line.

The 90-minute information session brought forth a lot of discussion with several residents seemingly adamantly opposed to the new line. Long-time resident of the area Jimmy Jennings said he felt that Foster Fuels, which owned the leaking tanks, was fully responsible for the clean-up of the area and for paying for the filtration units on private wells. “Why should we hook up (to the Authority’s system) and have to pay monthly bills when we have perfectly good wells?” Jennings asked. “I’ve never had a water bill.”

Instead of putting in a new waterline, Shelia Irby suggested that Foster should have to remove all the contaminated dirt in the area which she hoped would eliminate the damage to the ground water.

But Authority member Rick Harrell, who explained that the Authority had “no dog in this fight,” advised that residents should “bury the past” (talking about what Foster Fuels should do), and take advantage of this unique opportunity to improve the value of their property and insure their future protection from contamination.

Several other property owners seemed to favor the project. David Lawson, who said his filtration system continued to show increasing contaminants, said he needed the new lines and Greg Kashmer asked his neighbors to support it. “The risks (of contaminated water) need to be considered and this is a rare opportunity for help for long term. I think it would be a wise investment for $35 to $45 a month,” he said, referring to paying the bi-monthly water bills of the Authority.

Realtor Honey Davis, who owns one of the affected homes for rental property and who is selling another of the affected homes, said the value of the homes is definitely affected by the contamination of the wells.

Another property owner Debbie Ferguson pointed out that the amount of savings realized from homeowners insurance would likely compensate for the amount of the water bills since insurance rates are lower for those properties which have fire hydrants close by (fire hydrants would be installed along the affected area, Giese had advised.)

Lawson questioned the DEQ officials, Giese and David E. Kirby, local Remediation Geologist from Lynchburg, about how many property owners would have to support the project for it to be finalized. He was not given a definitive answer, but said the Authority and DEQ would have to consider the results of the survey to determine if it would be feasible to carry out the project.

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