The Town of Hamilton will remain the sole municipal sewer service provider to its 715 sewer users for the foreseeable future.
Mayor Dave Simpson said this week that talks of connecting the town’s sewer system with the Town of Purcellville have been called off, citing improvements to the town’s wastewater plant that have enabled it to handle nearly all of its 160,000-gallon daily capacity. Simpson said that because the plant can now “easily handle” users’ sewage, the town no longer needs to pass the wastewater off to Purcellville. “It’s not financially worthwhile to do that,” he said.
Simpson said those improvements were performed by Inboden Environmental Services, which took over control of the town’s utility operations in June. He said Inboden’s crews came in with fresh eyes and were readily able to assess and fix problems that might have been overlooked in the past.
In 2018, when Simpson initially engaged in talks with Purcellville Mayor Kwasi Fraser about a possible sewer connection between the two towns, Hamilton’s wastewater plant was running inefficiently and experiencing in-flow problems caused by record rainfall in 2018. The town at that time identified that it would have cost $10 million to build a new plant.
Purcellville’s Basham Simms Wastewater Facility, on the other hand, can treat 1.5 million gallons of sewage each day—which is about 62 percent more than the town’s 575,000-gallon average daily usage.
Purcellville Town Manager David Mekarski said it was “disappointing” to learn about Hamilton’s decision to discontinue the talks, seeing that Hamilton users would have taken up about a quarter of Purcellville’s excess sewer capacity.
Fraser said it was “no surprise” to hear the news from Simpson, having known for months that Hamilton was using Inboden.
Fraser noted that he and Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance have also tabled their talks of a possible sewer connection between the two towns.
Simpson said Hamilton also would not pursue a water connection with its neighbor—an idea that was originally floated by Purcellville’s utility staff this past summer upon realizing that Hamilton had a high-producing well that could partially serve Purcellville residents in times of dire need.
Simpson said Hamilton never explored that idea and that it didn’t make too much sense, seeing that Hamilton’s water system is comprised entirely of wells, which are difficult to measure when determining if there’s even enough water for existing users.
In addition to wells, Purcellville has a 29-million-gallon reservoir that can pump out 300,000 gallons of water daily, which makes it easy for the town staff to quantify the amount of water stored there. “[A water connection with Purcellville] just didn’t seem like a good idea,” Simpson said.
Simpson said Purcellville’s shrinking utility funds and ongoing discussions on the matter did not play a role in Hamilton’s decision to discontinue talks of a water and sewer connection.
“We were doing it for the best interest of Hamilton,” he said. “It has nothing to do with … Purcellville’s situations.”
Compared with the last fiscal year, Purcellville’s water fund has shrunk by 39 percent and its sewer fund has shrunk by 16 percent. The town is also burdened with $31 million of sewer debt, is facing $21 million worth of water projects and continues to spend more money to serve the majority of its water customers than what those users are paying for that service.
To correct those issues, the town has been searching for alternative revenue streams, such as connecting its sewer system with neighboring jurisdictions to collect additional user fees and to make better use of the 925,000 daily gallons of extra flow that Basham Simms can handle.
Given the town’s situation, Mekarski said that Hamilton’s decision to not pursue the water connection doesn’t pose a problem to Purcellville. But on the sewer side, he said it could have to some extent.
Mekarski said the town needs to identify new potential sewer users, noting that the town is eyeing a deal in which it could sell its reclaimed water to an outside user for manufacturing, irrigation or other purposes.
“That’s probably where our biggest promise is,” he said. “I think that may be an avenue to create some revenue enhancement.”
Fraser said the idea of a Hamilton sewer connection was just one of the many options the town was pondering. “I don’t see any setbacks,” he said.
Talking about the water fund, Fraser mentioned that the town would be “more than willing” to provide water to an aquatic center with an Olympic-sized swimming pool if the county were to invest in such a project, as long as it doesn’t spur high-density residential growth in the area.