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Planners give thumbs down to storing sewage sludge

Posted on Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 11:51 am

MILFORD – The Caroline County Planning Commission is turning thumbs down on proposed zoning ordinance amendments that would clear the way for a company to build a facility to store sewage sludge before it is applied to farmland.

The commission voted unanimously, 4-0, on each of four proposed amendments Wednesday night to recommend the Board of Supervisors not adopt the measures. The final decision will be with the supervisors.

Commissioners Milton Bush, Robert Fiumara, Les Stanley, and Tim Thompson voted against the zoning amendments. Commissioner William Smith arrived late and did not participate in the vote, and chairman Pete Davis was absent.

The zoning amendments are being sought by Synagro, a company that already applies sewage sludge – biosolids – to agricultural land in Caroline for fertilizer. The company is seeking to build a storage facility on a remote farm operated by Maxie Broaddus off Perimeter Road in the Bowling Green District. The storage facility would be about 300 to 400 feet by 120 feet. Caroline’s zoning ordinance currently does not allow such facilities.

The truck traffic that would be generated by the storage facility apparently was an issue for commissioners.

“My whole thought was looking out for the county,” Thompson said afterward. “If you add these vehicles to the highway, it’s still not going to generate anything for the economy of Caroline County.”

In earlier work sessions, Stanley also expressed concern about truck traffic, and Bush raised objections to the smell that might emanate from a storage facility.

The storage facility would have 10-20 trucks leaving it per day, planning technician Lisa Zech told the panel. The trucks would be tractor-trailer type dump trucks, according to Steve McMahon, a Synagro employee.

Stanley, who represents the Bowling Green District, where the storage facility would be located, offered the motions to reject the proposed amendments.

The commission held a public hearing on the proposed amendments in February, and they also questioned employees from the state Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) during the panel’s work session March 13. DEQ regulates the application of biosolids to farmland.

The proposed amendments would allow biosolids storage facilities by a special exception permit in areas zoned rural preservation or agricultural preservation but designated agricultural preservation in the county’s comprehensive plan. The amendments would require a minimum of 500 acres and a setback from the property line or public right of way at least 750 feet, and the storage facility would have to comply with pertinent state regulations.

About 15 sites in Caroline would meet those requirements.

Fourteen thousand acres of farmland in Caroline is permitted to allow application of sewage sludge, according to McMahon. The company also applies the material in thinned pine plantations.

Synagro is seeking a storage facility because when fields are wet and soft, tractors and other farm machinery cannot operate without disturbing the ground and causing ruts, so the biosolid material must be stored or sent to a landfill.

The material would be delivered from wastewater treatment plants in Alexandria, Arlington, and other municipalities.

Synagro has another storage facility in Fauquier County and two in King and Queen County, one in Newtown and the other in West Point.

In other action, the commission voted 5-0 to endorse the county’s capital improvement plan and voted 5-0 to endorse a proposed zoning amendment to add assembly operations to certain businesses allowed by special exception.

The panel tabled a proposed zoning ordinance amendment to allow an unenclosed porch to extend not more than 10 feet into a front yard of a home in an R-1 district.