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Despite County's Win, Activist Fights On

In early April, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that the environmental impact of the plant was within acceptable standards and issued a nationwide permit that would allow the county to continue with construction. (The county had obtained a permit previously, but a federal judge revoked it in November because it failed to describe its entire plans in the application).

Federal Judge Robert E. Payne said he was "astounded" that the corps had granted the nationwide permit because it demands less stringent environmental standards than the individual permits that the county had originally applied for.

Broaddus and his lawyers were surprised too. So they plan to go back to court on July 10 to challenge the corps' decision. Broaddus says the county is playing a "shell game," substituting a smaller, less-effective pumping station for the original interceptor in order to get the permit approved. Given the amount of sewage the county says it needs to handle — 30 million gallons per day, eventually — it will soon have to construct an additional way to get waste to the plant, Broaddus says. Such as, for example, an interceptor like the original.

It's very technical, Broaddus admits. But "this obfuscation and all these fringe issues wouldn't exist if we [Hanover County] were just, you know, kind of straight-dealing from the beginning."

The plant now stands half-finished. Officials say they have lost more than $675,000 because of the delay. Despite his misgivings, Judge Payne lifted the injunction on construction May 18. The county is thus legally allowed to continue working, says John Hodges, deputy county administrator for community development. But they have not yet begun.

"If Hanover starts building right now, they are doing themselves a disservice in the eyes of the public," Broaddus says. "It really is gambling with public money." County officials disagree. They continue to speak of the wastewater plant in the future tense, not the conditional.

— Melissa Scott Sinclair

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