Troy Jenkins, Sr, an employee of the Rappahannock County Water & Sewer Authority, found another break in the sewer line west of Sperryville on Tuesday, Jan. 31. Jenkins repaired the break that same day, said Pamela Parker, RCWSA plant manager.
Parker said that a letter was sent to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality within 24 hours after the break, as required by law.
The break is in the same vicinity — near the old Emporium building on Route 211 — as previous breaks caused by a Virginia Department of Transportation [VDOT] contractor installing guardrails last fall along the south side of the road.
Those breaks were discovered and repaired in early November. At the time, it was unclear who was responsible for the damage — VDOT; A&P Services, which is the guardrail installer; or the RCWSA.
After an email from local attorney Taylor Odom, A&P denied any responsibility for the breaks, saying that they had contacted Miss Utility to identify any utility lines along the section of 211 before the work began.
But, as RCWSA was not then registered with Miss Utility, A&P had no way of knowing the sewer line was there. Following that incident, RCWSA registered with Miss Utility, said authority chair Alex Sharp. Parker reported that RCWS has already received four job tickets from Comcast and one from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative about plans to excavate near the RCWSA’s lines.
With discovery of the third break, the RCWSA is looking into hiring a contractor to investigate the soundness of — if not possibly replace — the entire line that runs approximately 100 feet along the bank of the Thornton River.
“My thought is that it will cost about the same to ‘patch’ the spot as to replace the 100 or so feet,” Sharp wrote in an email Jan. 26 to fellow RCWSA members. “Replacement would be a much better ‘fix’ as there are probably other places where the line is compromised in that run.”
In the meantime, Sharp said in a phone call this week: “We determined that rather than letting the leak go [while talking with contractors] we needed to patch it for now.”
He said Troy Jenkins, an RCWSA employee, had fashioned a bypass around the break. Sharp added that there was no evidence liquid in the pipe had flowed into the river.
According to Bill Freitag, one of the RCWSA members: “The line carries untreated effluent from various septic systems within the authority’s operational area.” (Editor’s note: The reporter of this article is married to Freitag.)
To minimize pressure on the line, said Sharp, the RCWSA pumped out the 5,000 gallon septic system at Hearthstone School upriver from the Sperryville plant.
Sharp said there was no service interruption during the break and repair of the line.
“Other than sustaining damage, the lines seem to be in good condition,” he said. “[The PVC pipes] seemed to have been properly installed” in the mid-1980s.