Fairfax Water buying utility from Falls Church for $40 million

Fairfax Water will buy the neighboring water utility owned by Falls Church.

The purchase agreement, achieved with the help of a federal mediator, brings an end to years of legal wrangling between the two jurisdictions about water rates and service areas.

Falls Church’s water system already serves thousands of Fairfax County residents in the McLean, Merrifield and Tysons Corner areas, as well as all city residents.

According to released terms of the settlement, Fairfax Water will buy the Falls Church water system for $40 million, but Falls Church will retain about $30 million in debt and pension obligations. Fairfax Water is guaranteeing employment for all the city’s water system employees for at least three years, except for those terminated for cause.

It will take about a year to complete the merger. Once that process is complete, Fairfax Water promises lower rates for current Falls Church customers. Falls Church’s current base rates are more than $1 more per 1,000 gallons than Fairfax Water’s, which are $2.16 per 1,000 gallons.

The systems are expected to legally merge by January 2014.

Fairfax County is exploring waste management options

Fairfax County is soliciting proposals from waste disposal companies.

“We’re casting a very wide net to see what’s out there,” said Supervisor Penelope A. Gross (D-Mason), chairman of the Board of Supervisors Environment Committee, which was briefed on the process Nov. 27.

Currently, most non-recyclable waste in the county winds up at the privately operated waste-to-energy plant in Lorton. Covanta owns and operates the plant, which incinerates trash and uses the heat to generate electricity, but it sits on county land adjacent to a former landfill.

The county has a contract with Covanta that extends through 2016. In spring 2011, a possible deal to extend that contract for 30 years fell apart.

Now, the county is simultaneously weighing a Covanta contract extension and exploring waste management alternatives, said Joyce Doughty, director of solid waste disposal and resource recovery.

The county is not necessarily looking for another one-size-fits-all approach, Doughty said. The goal is to find the most cost-effective and environmentally sensitive approach for collecting, recycling and disposing of solid waste.

In addition, Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said, having the full spectrum of options “gives us some leverage in dealing with Covanta.”

The staff review of the proposals is expected to be complete in April.