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Environmental groups sue Henrico County over chronic sewage violations

Three environmental groups are suing Henrico County over what they say is a failure to fix chronic problems with its sewage collection system and treatment plant that has led to more than 66 million gallons of raw sewage being dumped into the James River and its tributaries since 2016. 

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By Sarah Vogelsong

Three environmental groups are suing Henrico County over what they say is a failure to fix chronic problems with its sewage collection system and treatment plant that has led to more than 66 million gallons of raw sewage being dumped into the James River and its tributaries since 2016.

In a suit filed in federal court Monday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and James River Association, the latter represented by watchdog group Environmental Integrity Project, allege that Henrico County has shown “flagrant disregard” for pollution limits set by the state under the federal Clean Water Act. 

Henrico “has been provided numerous opportunities, over approximately 28 years, to address egregious and consistent pollution from” the Henrico County Water Reclamation Facility, the suit reads. “Despite this, the facility has continued to violate the terms of its [state] permit and the CWA.” 

Henrico County spokesperson Kristin Dunlop said in an email that “the county is reviewing this lawsuit and looks forward to a full presentation of the facts through the legal process.” 

The environmental groups are seeking to force Henrico to craft a more comprehensive solution to the ongoing pollution discharges. They are also asking the court to assess civil penalties against Henrico and to order that it remediate any harm caused by violations. 

“In order to meaningfully address Henrico’s reoccurring clean water violations and protect public health and the environment, Henrico should abide by legally binding milestones, including an ultimate end date to stop these pollution events,” said Sylvia Lam, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, during a press call Monday.  

Since the Henrico Water Reclamation Facility began operating in November 1989, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality has issued dozens of notices of violation to the county for excess pollution and sanitary sewer overflows associated with the treatment plant and sewage collection system. 

DEQ has also issued the sewer system and facility four consent orders, an enforcement mechanism used by the agency to compel a violator to resolve environmental problems and sometimes pay penalties. 

Consent orders were issued to Henrico in 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2010, with penalties totaling $53,000. 

Another consent order with an attached penalty of $207,680 — of which $155,750 would go toward environmental work — is still being finalized.  A DEQ spokesman did not immediately respond Monday to several questions about the violations.

Among the most recent violations recorded in the lawsuit are 238 overflows of raw, untreated sewage into the James River and its tributaries between September 2016 and June 2021. The sewage treatment plant has also consistently exceeded its permitted limits for suspended solids and a factor called “carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand” that measures the extent to which wastewater can deprive a body of water of oxygen. 

“Henrico County through its operation of the Henrico Water Reclamation facility has contributed an exorbitant amount of pollutants to the James River basin over the last 30 years,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation attorney Taylor Lilley. The county “has jeopardized the health of the James River and its tributaries and posed significant health risks to surrounding communities.” 

On Monday, Bay Foundation and James River Association representatives also called for enforcement measures to include mandatory notification of residents when overflows occur. 

The Henrico County Water Reclamation Facility has a broad footprint, accepting residential, commercial, and industrial pollution from over 250,000 users in Henrico and parts of Hanover, Richmond, and Goochland. 

“Other cities and counties have been required to provide public notice when sewage overflows occur in local creeks and streams. … Many members of the public are unaware that the waterways they use for fun, for business, are contaminated by raw sewage from these overflows,” said Lam. 

While neighboring Richmond is also plagued with persistent sewer overflow problems, most of the city’s woes stem from its more than 100-year-old combined sewer system, a type of infrastructure that routes stormwater and wastewater flows through the same pipes, leading to sewer overflows during heavy precipitation. 

Three cities in Virginia — Richmond, Alexandria, and Lynchburg — have historically had combined sewer systems, and both Richmond and Alexandria have been placed on strict timelines by the General Assembly to finish overhauling them. Lynchburg is on track to complete its work in the next five years. 

Henrico’s system, however, has separate pipes for stormwater and wastewater. 

The attorneys said that the groups have been engaging in conversations with the county to address the pattern of violations but had reached the conclusion that they needed to take legal action. 

“We have seen how those enforcement efforts have played out over the last 30 years,” said Lilley. “And as we’ve said, they have not proven sufficient to address the issues from Henrico or its facility, and there’s not a realistic end date in point that will stop this kind of enforcement action from continuing.”

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Education

University of Richmond announces new Dean of Arts & Sciences

Jennifer Jones Cavenaugh, an accomplished administrator and noted Theater History scholar, will join the UR community in July.

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Jennifer Jones Cavenaugh, who currently serves as the dean of the faculty at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, will become dean of the University of Richmond’s School of Arts & Sciences July 1.

“Professor Cavenaugh is a champion of the liberal arts and an accomplished scholar and academic leader,” said University of Richmond President Kevin F. Hallock. “I eagerly look forward to her joining us this coming summer and am excited about her leading our terrific School of Arts & Sciences.”

“Having a long history of being a strong proponent of faculty development and an active participant in shared governance, Dr. Cavenaugh will be a great addition to the University,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Jeff Legro. “She has deep experience in recruiting, hiring, and retaining an outstanding diverse faculty and in strengthening an academic community, which are also priorities at UR.”

In addition to her role as dean of the faculty, Cavenaugh is the Winifred M. Warden Endowed Chair of Theatre & Dance at Rollins. Cavenaugh previously served for four years as the associate dean of Arts & Sciences. She also spent three years as producing artistic director of the Annie Russell Theater.

Cavenaugh’s areas of teaching and research include gender and performance, theater history, script analysis, and American musical theater. Her book Medea’s Daughters: Forming and Performing Women Who Kill examines representations of women criminals in plays and television. She is a member of Actor’s Equity and has performed and directed for over 25 years. She is the recipient of numerous teaching and research awards.

“The University of Richmond’s teacher-scholar model and its commitment to a liberal arts education and to undergraduate research drew me in immediately,” said Cavenaugh. “I look forward to working with such a vibrant community.”

Cavenaugh earned her undergraduate degree in policy studies at Dartmouth College, her MFA in dramaturgy from Brooklyn College, and her Ph.D. in theater history and dramatic criticism at the University of Washington.

All University of Richmond students begin their college journey in the School of Arts & Sciences, which is home to 23 departments and 13 interdisciplinary programs, and more than 300 faculty and staff. The School’s world-class faculty lead top-tier research programs while teaching in the small, intimate classrooms of a liberal arts college and work closely with students in scholarship and creative expression. The faculty of Arts & Sciences boasts a number of leading national research fellowships, including grants from Fulbright, Guggenheim, NSF, NEH, and NIH.

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Business

Eggmania brings authentic Indian street food to the West End

This new concept in Henrico, the first of its kind to open in Virginia, is located at 2610 Tuckernuck Drive, beside Royal Bazaar Farmers Market.

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Eggmania, a restaurant specializing in egg-based delicacies and authentic Indian street foods, announced that its fifth overall location has opened, its first in Richmond. This new concept in Henrico, the first of its kind to open in Virginia, is located at 2610 Tuckernuck Drive, beside Royal Bazaar Farmers Market.

Eggmania is a fast-growing restaurant brand specializing in Indian street foods, most of which are egg-based. Keeping the health and nutrition benefits of eggs in mind, Eggmania is known for its consistent quality and unique dishes. Customers can find different dishes with eggs boiled, shredded, fried, or folded into omelets to accommodate all forms and flavors of Indian cuisine with various gravy options.

Eggmania also serves Bombay-style grilled sandwiches with the choice of eggs, paneer, and chicken along with authentic Indian-flavored Kababs and chicken delicacies. Eggmania has plenty of vegetarian options as well. Popular menu items include Volcano Biryani, Anda Lahori, Angoori Fry, Jetty Roll, Paneer Lava Fry, Cold Coco, the Samosa Grill sandwich, and many more.

The concept for Eggmania was established by five young, passionate friends, who all originated from the state of Gujarat, India, and met during their college careers in the United States. Having bonded through their shared craving for egg meals that were easily available on Indian streets but limited in the States, the friends were inspired enough by the idea and the food to open their own restaurant.

“It’s tough leaving your home and the things you’re familiar with – the liveliness of street food culture and the uniqueness of our egg-based meals in India bring people together, and we all missed that,” explains Darshan Patel and Kunjan Patel, two of the five partners. “We wanted Eggmania to be the place where people could go to not only get good, unique food but to also find the little bit of community and culture that we left behind.”

While the idea of starting a restaurant came out of a casual discussion in 2012, it was the thought of having the foods they missed every day and the ability to serve a community facing similar food issues that encouraged them to bring their concept to life. Within months, the friends opened the first Eggmania in Jersey City, New Jersey in the heart of a thriving Indian community. Soon after, they added a second location in Iselin, New Jersey, and this year they began franchising in Illinois and Massachusetts. The Eggmania team identified Richmond as an ideal area for this unique type of restaurant and looks forward to satisfying local customer cravings with an expansive menu of egg-citing dishes.

The new 1,900 sq. ft. location has indoor seating available along with takeout and delivery options.

The Richmond location is open Sunday through Thursday, 12-10 pm, and Friday and Saturday, 11 am-11 pm. For more information, visit https://www.eggmania.com.

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Community

Richmond BizSense.com has the Scoop on a Gelati Celesti Expansion

Can there be too many ice cream shops? Our Magic 8 Ball says all signs point to no way.

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Richmond BizSense.com has the delicious details.

Gelati Celesti has scooped up some extra space in Short Pump, while plotting an aggressive expansion plan elsewhere in Virginia.

The local ice cream chain is in the process of doubling the size of its shop at 11805 W. Broad St. by taking over the neighboring storefront.

In addition to that ongoing project, the company opened a second Virginia Beach location in November with plans for 15 new stores in the next five years.

 

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