BRWA to draw more water from SML

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By John Barnhart

    The Bedford Regional Water Authority (BRWA) needs to stick a bigger straw in Smith Mountain Lake.
    The new water treatment plant BRWA will build on the former Camp 24 site will be able to treat up to 6 million gallons of water a day, according to Brian Key, BRWA’s director. He said the current High Point plant draws up to 1 million gallons a day. This means BRWA will need a larger water intake pipe, bigger pumps and a larger pump house.
    “We need  extra space for increased demand,” said Key.
    According to Key, the pump house doesn’t actually house the pumps — these are underground. The pump houses the pumps’ controls and an air compressor that is part of the water intake’s backwash system. Key said the intake pipe is protected by a screen and compressed air is periodically blown out of the pipe to clear debris from the screen. The larger intake pipe will need a larger compressor for its backwash system and the larger pumps have larger electrical control needs.
    Key said BRWA already has approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Com-mission, American Electric Power and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for the increased water withdrawals. Now it needs a special use permit from Bedford County and, in order to get this permit, BRWA will need to appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals  (BZA) to get a variance from the county zoning ordinance’s setback requirements. The zoning ordinance specifies a procedure that allows property owners to seek a variance from setback requirements for a specific project and the BRWA was scheduled to appear before the BZA Tuesday night.
    “We can’t even modify the existing structure without a variance,” Key said.
    The new pump house will replace the existing one and the existing compressor will be housed in a portable building until the new pump house is completed.
    Key expects work to begin next year. Grading for the Camp 24 plant will start in February but work on the water intake won’t start until the autumn of that year. Key said this is because the BRWA will have to wait until fish spawning season is over.
    “We are restricted from doing anything in the water,” Key said.
    Fish spawning season starts on Feb. 14 — Valentine’s Day — and lasts until June 16.
    Actually BRWA isn’t doing much that would disrupt any piscine romances. The pipe will be built on land and moved into the water, following the slope of the ground with supports that keep it five feet off the ground. The actual intake will be at a depth of 20 feet. Key said the Lake’s water quality is excellent once you get below 10 or 15 feet.
    “It’s a great source,” he said.
    Key expects it to take three months to complete the intake. He expects the entire project to be ready to start providing water to Forest by the end of 2016.