Legislation would help pay for upgrades to sewer treatment plants throughout Panhandle
February 16, 2011 - By John McVey The Journal
MARTINSBURG - A bill that would provide funding for upgrades needed by wastewater treatment plants in the Eastern Panhandle to meet new, stringent anti-pollution requirements has cleared another hurdle in the West Virginia Legislature.
"It unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee (Monday) - this is an excellent start," state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Snyder has shepherded Senate Bill 245 through interim committee meetings and is now seeing it through the legislative session.
On Tuesday afternoon, he was on his way to the Senate Finance Committee, where the bill goes next for consideration.
"That's going to be an uphill climb," Snyder said of convincing that committee's members to take up the bill. "I've got my work cut out for me. Finance has a stack of bills and it's my job to make sure it's on the Finance Committee's agenda. The biggest hurdle is to get it on Finance's agenda."
While he feels confident that the members of the Legislature would pass the bill, it has to get out of the Finance Committee first.
Snyder is "cautiously optimistic" of getting the bill through the Finance Committee, he said.
SB245 would set aside $6 million of the state's Excess Lottery Fund for the next 30 years to finance up to $180 million in bonds that would help to pay for improvements, expansions and new construction at 13 sewer treatment plants across the greater, eight-county Eastern Panhandle, Snyder explained.
The estimated cost of all the projects is about $225 million. The balance of the costs would have to be paid for by customers.
Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new, very strict pollution limits for wastewater treatment plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
A presidential executive order is directing the EPA to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution from getting into the Chesapeake Bay via its tributaries, like the Potomac River, which is a major tributary of the bay.
The greater Eastern Panhandle is in the Potomac River watershed area.
The EPA also has targeted agricultural operations and stormwater runoff as areas for dramatic reductions in pollution.
The existing or new treatment plants that would be eligible for funding under the bill would include four facilities operated by the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District, and one each by Charles Town, Jefferson County Public Service District, Keyser, Martinsburg, Moorefield, Petersburg, Romney, Shepherdstown and Warm Springs Public Service District in Morgan County.