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Petersburg needs millions to fix ‘neglected’ water system

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PETERSBURG, Va. – Years of neglect are evident inside Petersburg City’s largest waste water pumping station is evident.

Interim City Manager Tom Tyrrell says the lack of a maintenance program over several decades has led to serious problems and created expensive repairs.

"This is an example of things that should have been easy to maintain and or repair over time, that we just didn't,” Tyrell said.

In fact, Tyrell said they’ve had to go “completely manual to a process because we haven't maintained or replaced the technology that we need to do it more automated."

"Right now we're pegging $51 million as a baseline Capital Improvement Program for our water and waste water utility,” he said.

And that doesn't even include the $41 million needed for Appomattox River Water Authority and South Central Wastewater Authority. Petersburg is one of the five-member localities that pay for the partial upgrades.

Tyrrell says one big problem is that the city is paying to treat one billion gallons of rainwater.

"You turn on the tap, a gallon comes out, goes into the waste water system, you should pay for a gallon to be treated, we're not doing that,” he said. “We're paying for a billion gallons of rainwater to be treated every year, at the waste water plant from that infiltration and inflow into out waste water system."

Some past rate hikes were approved but never implemented. So Petersburg home and business owners pay one of the lowest utility fees in the Commonwealth.

"Rates are going to increase because there's no alternative really and they've been held artificially low,” Tyrell said.

Some residents are concerned by the thought of a rate increase, and curious where the fee has been going all along.

"I don't mind paying my fair stake in things, I just want to make sure that what we're paying is going to where it needs to go to,” said Dino Lunsford.

"If I put utility on my bill and pay it with a check, that's where it should go,” said home owner Karen Massey.