Lake Caroline residents complain to the SCC

LADYSMITH—A proposal by Aqua Virginia to buy the Lake Caroline Public Water System has drawn the attention of a state legislature candidate and generated 889 letters from concerned residents to the State Corporation Commission.

House of Delegates candidate Toni Radler has asked the SCC to “either deny Aqua Virginia’s request to double the water taken out of Lake Caroline for sale to other communities, or assure the residents that they will be allowed to continue using the lake for recreational purposes.”

Residents are mainly concerned that Aqua’s ownership of the water system will put an end to recreational activities, such as jet skis, water skiing and fishing from gasoline-powered motor boats. Ladysmith Water Company owns the water system and company representatives have turned down offers from the county government to buy the system.

Some lake communities are built around water reservoirs, such as Woodlake in Chesterfield County, where the only motorized boats allowed are those with small electric motors.

“For more than 40 years, Lake Caroline has been a recreational community with boating, water skiing, fishing and swimming on the lake,” Radler said in a news release. “Homeowners buy here to enjoy the lake and make it the center of their family’s recreational activities. It’s been part of the amenities listed by the homeowners association and is an essential component of the way of life at Lake Caroline.”

“Now the community is being threatened by the purchase of the lake by Aqua Virginia, which has signaled its plans to double the water that is now being taken from the lake,” the candidate said. “We are concerned that as Aqua Virginia goes through the permitting process, the residents will be restricted from using the lake for recreational purposes.”

Some residents of Lake Caroline have said in letters to the SCC that they will move away from the lake community if Aqua Virginia buys the water system because of a feared drop in property values.

An Aqua Virginia spokesperson declined an interview with The Caroline Progress, and instead supplied documents about the matter.

The water system includes a 7.5 acre sedimentation pond, raw water valves and pumps, as well as a flash mixer, water treatment plant, backwash and finished water pumps, chemical feed systems, water mains, service lines, meter boxes and an interconnection with the Caroline County water System.

Aqua Virginia is a subsidiary of Aqua America, which is one of the largest U.S.-based, publicly-traded water utilities and serves almost 3 million residents in Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, New Jersey, Indiana, Virginia, and Georgia, according to Aqua America’s website, www.aquaamerica.com. During the first half of 2013, Aqua America purchased seven water and wastewater utility systems—three in Pennsylvania, three in North Carolina and one in Botetourt County, Virginia.

The filter system within the water treatment plant is in need of replacement, and is consequently offline. If the sale is approved by the SCC, Aqua “intends to refurbish the filter system in the water treatment plant and return the system to service provided from the existing water supply,” according to documents provided by Aqua.

Aqua representatives stated in a meeting at the Lake Caroline clubhouse in early August that the proposal “does not require a continuous, open interconnection with the Caroline County water supply.”

Aqua has said it will install meters in the community “as soon as practical.” Once meters are installed, and “sufficient data is collected,” a rate will be proposed that Aqua documents indicate will be “substantially similar to the current one.”

In addition, in their written proposal handed out to Lake Caroline Residents, Aqua states that it “will not restrict existing recreational use of Lake Caroline,” which is a major concern of homeowners. Nearly 890 letters have been sent to the SCC by homeowners of the Lake Caroline community to illustrate their concerns. There are 1,041 homes in the Lake Caroline community.

Letters sent by homeowners list conditions Aqua must meet before residents will support the sale of the system to Aqua. Some of the conditions include: Aqua must not do anything that would impede the recreational use of Lake Caroline. If Aqua activities result in a loss of primary contact recreational use in Lake Caroline, Aqua must compensate the Lake Caroline Property Owners Association and homeowners at a rate established by an independent party. Aqua must submit proposed water rates for Lake Caroline within a reasonable time after meters are installed and in use. Any rate increases proposed by Aqua must be discussed with the LCPOA prior to submission to  the SCC.

The ending paragraph of a drafted letter signed by many of the homeowners in Lake Caroline reads: “I am very concerned that Aqua Virginia, upon receiving Commission approval of the sale, will take or encourage actions that will result in the prevention of recreational use of Lake Caroline either in the short or long term. This would directly and negatively impact our enjoyment of the Lake, which is a wonderful community and County asset and the reason why so many of us live in this community. It would also have a negative impact upon property values in this community.”

The website www.lakecaroline.net describes the community this way: “Lake Caroline is a gated community situated on a pristine lake, surrounded by 1,500 acres. Our lake covers 277 acres. The lake is over two miles long with a depth averaging 15 feet throughout, and 32 feet at the dam. Graced by a 10 mile tree-lined shore, the lake is fed by numerous hillside springs, natural wells, and Stevens Mill Run.

“Nestled in the peaceful serenity of a lakeside community, members enjoy many amenities throughout the year. Our residents have access to a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, a clubhouse, and office. In addition, there are two sandy beaches and nine recreation areas, some with pavilions for parties or gatherings, providing lake access for swimming, boating and fishing. Water activities are available to all members via our two marinas.”

Aqua America’s website says, “We earn public trust through integrity, tenacity and the diligence with which we reliably deliver services that are basic to the quality of life we enjoy in the United States – potable water and the disposal of wastewater.”

In addition, according to the website, Aqua America is committed to:

  • Providing quality water and wastewater service, in a manner consistent with applicable standards for public health and environmental quality standards.
  • Continuing its capital investment in system improvements, including the rehabilitation and replacement of key infrastructure and plants.
  • Ensuring courteous and responsive service to customers, regulators and public officials.
  • Demonstrating leadership through civic involvement in the communities we serve, acting as stewards of the environment and being proactive in the development of public policy issues crucial to the success of the water and wastewater industries.
  • Being the investment of choice among utility investors based on growth in earnings, dividends and total return to shareholders.

Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 6:25 pm