A group of Mathews residents has been denied a request for a public hearing before the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality over a permit application by Riverside Convalescent Center.
Riverside applied for a renewal of its long-standing permit to discharge effluent from backwashing its water filtration system into a ditch that empties into Put-in Creek. The public notice of the permit application described the process as releasing treated industrial wastewater at a rate of 2,000 gallons per day into a water body. Sludge from the treatment system is disposed of separately by pump and hauled away to a treatment facility.
Thirteen Mathews residents made written requests for a public hearing, including Paul and Elsa Verbyla, whose property abuts the ditch that carries the effluent; Lynn Gillikin, who brought the matter to the attention of the Mathews Board of Supervisors; and Mathews County Administrator Steve Whiteway, who interceded on behalf of the residents.
However, Jeremy Kazio, water permit writer for DEQ, said in his report that the number of requests for a public hearing didn’t meet the statutory requirement to show that there was significant public interest in the matter. At least 25 separate comments would be needed to fulfill that requirement, he said.
In her request for a public hearing, Gillikin said she was concerned about impurities in the water, particularly unacceptable levels of manganese. She was also concerned that the permit sets a precedent for future industrial discharge into Put-In Creek.
The Verbylas questioned the original authorization of the permit, which was issued first in 1987. They said notification was not given adjacent landowners. But Kazio said no such notification was required by law until 1988, so riparian notification was not an issue.