Wastewater treatment plant legislation clears Senate Finance Committee

February 24, 2011

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Legislation that would help Eastern Panhandle communities pay for upgrades to wastewater treatment plants to meet environmental standards targeting Chesapeake Bay cleanup cleared the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.

State Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson/Berkeley, said Thursday's unanimous endorsement of Senate Bill 245 by the powerful Senate committee was a "major hurdle" in getting the legislation passed.

Now on track for a Senate floor vote, the bill comes with a price tag of $6 million per year for the next 30 years. The legislation, which is designed to spare area residents from having to shoulder the cost of an estimated $190.5 million in plant upgrades, still must be passed in the House.

While Snyder likes the bill's chances in the House given the support received thus far in the Senate, getting the bill through the other chamber is "not a given at all," he said.

"I'm working on that starting (tonight)," Snyder said Thursday evening. Sens. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson and Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, whose district includes many of counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed in West Virginia, also are among the bill's sponsors.

The legislation proposes excess video lottery money be allocated to the West Virginia Infrastructure & Jobs Development Council to pay off bonds issued for 13 public wastewater treatment projects in Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan, Hampshire, Mineral, Grant and Hardy counties. The counties are part of the Bay watershed.

"It's West Virginia joining the other states in doing their part to clean up the Chesapeake Bay," Snyder said of the long-term state funding obligation proposed.

The lottery money would be used to pay back about $83 million in bond generated funding that could be available for the projects in 2013, Snyder said. The cost of the projects has been estimated to be about $224 million, but grants and private funding sources have reduced the obligation to about $190.5 million, Snyder has said.

After the new state revenue is tapped, local residents still likely will have to shoulder the remaining cost through rate increases, officials have said.


— Matthew Umstead

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