MVP not likely to affect Salem water, Robinson reassures

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New hotel announced in business updates

Salem’s water supply is not likely to be affected by the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, according to the man in charge of the city’s water and sewer.

Larado Robinson, director of water and sewer, reassured Salem City Council in a work session before the regular meeting Tuesday night that the city has enough wells and treatment safeguards in place for Roanoke River water that even if there were runoff from construction of the gas pipeline construction Salem’s water would not be endangered.

“I really don’t see a problem at all and believe we can provide pretty good water to the citizens of Salem,” Robinson said. He was asked to reassure Council after many citizens concerned about the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline coming through the Roanoke Valley expressed concerns about possible pollution to Salem’s water sources.

The city has a 10-million-gallon-per-day water treatment plant on the banks of the Roanoke River next to Mill Lane. Sixty percent of the water comes from the river, with the rest from three current wells. Two more wells have been drilled, Robinson told Council and could be online within a couple of years.

“If we had to, our wells can produce enough water to sustain the city for a while,” Robinson added.

After heavy rains such as those in the last few weeks, there is more sediment in the river water, he said, and that water goes into pre-sedimentary areas for the mud to settle out. “We have the ability to add coagulates to attract pollutants,” Robinson explained, “but because our plant has been designed so well, we haven’t needed to.”

“Obviously, they aren’t harmful and don’t cause a bad taste to the water,” Mayor Randy Foley observed, and Robinson agreed.

“By the time water gets to our filtration, turbidity is below .1,” Robinson continued, and under state environmental regulations, all Salem has to get to is a .3.

“We have emergency plans if some chemical spill gets in the water,” Robinson said, adding that Salem meets the Department of Environmental Quality standards “before the water even hits the filters. Those guys work hard to make sure good water leaves the plant.”

Councilman James Martin observed, “It seems like we’re in pretty good shape.” And Councilmember Jane Johnson agreed. “This is greatly reassuring to all of us in this room, and we would like to get the word out.”

Robinson said an article about the water department’s work will be in the summer Salem magazine that will be printed and distributed soon, but is not specifically about potential pollution from the gas pipeline construction.

Council updated on new businesses coming

Also, during the work session Tuesday night, Economic Development Director Melinda Payne announced a new motel coming to Salem, and other business updates.

  • avid hotels will locate a new 87-room hotel on a vacant lot on Wildwood Road in front of the Hampton Inn, off I-81 Exit 137. The “everyday travel” hotel which is part of the Holiday Inn family will be only the second in the state of Virginia, Payne said, and is being developed by Salem resident and entrepreneur Kirtesch Patel. “Hotels are always good revenue for us, with the Interstate,” Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess pointed out.
  • Development of a plan to spotlight West Salem commercial areas, similar to the Downtown Salem Plan, will begin soon, Payne said. Brainstorming with a focus group of business owners and city staff has already given some ideas. “We’re trying to figure out how to let folks know about businesses to the west,” Payne said.

“We’re going to engage the folks out there to be part of the process,” Payne said. She expects to start reaching out to the community in late summer.

Other updates on new business and relocations were:

  • El Rodeo – construction has started, with the foundation poured. The restaurant is moving from Wildwood Road to West Main Street near Hardee’s.
  • Angell’s Diner – (in the former Shoney’s building on Wildwood Road) “is going to create a lot of synergy out there,” Payne said. The property has closed, and the owner has construction trailers on the site. The restaurant owner “has said he would like to be up and going by fall,” she said.
  • Chestnut Manor Apartments renovations – hoping all work should be done by the end of June, and ready to start leasing, Payne said. The work on apartments on Chestnut Street near the CVS utilized state money available through state Historic Tax Credits. Rents will be $600-650 for 600-square-foot apartments.
  • New looks – A historic-style Coca-Cola sign has been painted on the Diuguids Lane side of the Salem Antiques building;
  • Mill Mountain Coffee’s new façade, done with assistance from the city’s façade grants for downtown, is completed, with new front and back entrance designs.
  • MKB Realtors and Graham Thomas Construction have new façades.

Other downtown projects:

  • Old Salem Theatre – cut new windows.
  • Interior work is progressing on Muchacho Allegro (in the Old Salem Pizza), which is coming out of Lexington.

Payne said the city is working to develop a parking app for downtown so that customers coming to one of the downtown sports bars, for instance, could use it to local parking after 5 p.m., especially.

The Council meeting was held on Tuesday because of the Memorial Day holiday on the regular meeting date, Monday, May 28, when city offices were closed. During the Council meeting following the work session, Council unanimously passed the $78-million 2018-19 fiscal year budget on second reading, with no tax increases.