Blue Water answers questions ahead of April 6 public hearing on DEQ permit for campground

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, April 4 — This Thursday evening at Luray High School, Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality will hold an informational meeting at 6 p.m. in the auditorium, followed by a public hearing at 6:30 p.m., to solicit public input on a permit application by Luray RV Resort and Campground to release up to 50,000 gallons of treated wastewater each day into the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

The hearing represents a second effort by the state regulatory agency to reach out to the public after holding an informal public information meeting on Jan. 19 at the Luray Fire Hall regarding the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit for Wastewater being considered. Some residents who attended the first meeting expressed some concern about what was going to be discharged into the South Fork.

“We are investing about $3 million for the property’s wastewater treatment system,” the site’s general manager Kim Rhinehart told Page Valley News this week. Under the same restrictions, regulations and regular testing as numbers of other wastewater treatment plants in the county, the campground’s developers assert that all discharge from the site will meet state regulations. In fact, after going through several different treatment stages, the effluent entering the river will actually be cleaner than the river itself.

“The wastewater treatment plant will protect the river by providing code compliant, high-quality effluent that is subject to state-regulated operations and maintenance, testing and compliance protocols that also govern our municipal treatment facilities and discharges in Page County,” stated Luray-based engineer Pat Racey, a principal of Racey Engineering, who the developer hired to help guide the project.

While the permit allows the “release of treated sewage wastewater at a rate of 0.05 million gallons per day into the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Page County [and then] into the South Fork Shenandoah River-Hawksclaw Creek watershed,” the permit will also “limit the following pollutants to amounts that protect water quality — physical and chemical properties, nutrients, inorganics, organic matter, solids, and bacteria. Sludge from the treatment process will be pumped and hauled to the North River Wastewater Treatment Facility, where it will undergo treatment.”

Corporate owner Blue Water, based in Ocean City, Md., completed the purchase of Outlander’s Campground from Yvonne Berezoski on Dec. 29, 2021. The transaction was finalized about six weeks after the Page County Board of Supervisors held a joint meeting and public hearing with the county planning commission and approved both a rezoning request and a special use permit for the planned expansion.

In total, Blue Water owns six campgrounds, 12 hotels and three attractions, with properties in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire, according to its website. Their newest venture in Page County adds 81 acres to the previous 100-acre retreat featuring nearly a mile of frontage along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. While nearly doubling the acreage, the project also adds more than four times the previous lodging options just off Route 211 a few miles west of Luray.

“We were [Virginia Department of Health] approved for 73 sites in 2022. We are excited that our expansion will add cottages, additional RV sites, and tents, which will bring the total site count to approximately 350 in the coming year,” Rhinehart told PVN. “We’re proud that the expansion will allow us to add 45 jobs to Luray’s local economy in the coming months, as we expect to welcome over 250,000 visitors through the end of 2023.”

Citizens who voiced their opinions at the Jan. 19 meeting — as well as the two dozen letters received during the first comment period Dec. 22 through Jan. 23 — also noted concern over nutrient “credits” purchased from Leesburg.

“The credits were purchased through the (Virginia) Nutrient Exchange Program per state law. The member locality that had ‘credits’ available and ready for purchase was the Town of Leesburg, Va. Other members were contacted and, logistically or strategically, were not sale ready at the time of application filing. So, the credits were purchased from the Town of Leesburg, where they were available in timing with the need for the DEQ application,” Racey explained.

“This is a state-regulated program where any Operator/Permittee must have an established source of credits for inclusion with the DEQ application,” Racey continued. “The Nutrient Exchange Program is based on state law and has absolutely no allowance for increased pollution limits, whereby it is the exact opposite of that concept. Nothing in state code or laws allows for pollutant loads in excess of permit limits without serious penalty.”

A second public comment period on the campground’s DEQ permit application opened March 6 and runs through Friday, April 21. DEQ accepts comments by hand delivery, email, or postal delivery. All comments must include the name, address or email address of the person commenting and must be received by DEQ during the comment period.

DEQ also accepts written and oral comments at the April 6 public hearing. To make a statement at a public hearing, write your name on a sign-up sheet available before the hearing. The time allowed for each statement is set by the hearing officer.

A group of concerned citizens in Page County recently met with Blue Water in advance of Thursday’s public hearing to work through some of their concerns about the Luray RV Resort and Campground project. The group had reportedly created and was circulating a petition against the project. However, the campground’s general manager said this week she had not seen a copy of the petition.

“Just this past week, our team met with the group that created the petition and had a constructive conversation. We listened to their feedback and are in the process of evaluating their requests from a logistical standpoint,” Rhinehart said. “We look forward to continuing a dialogue with the community at large to help address any concerns. We are grateful that the residents of Luray share our goal of making Luray RV Resort the best possible experience for our guests while protecting the Shenandoah River.”

The project is projected to bring in more than $520,000 in Transiency Occupancy Tax (TOT) funds annually — a projected 33-percent increase in the county’s $1.5 million annual TOT collections — along with more than $180,000 in real estate taxes annually.

In addition, Blue Water has proclaimed their intention to be a good corporate neighbor.

“With an investment expected to be more than $30 million, we aim to build upon Page County’s beauty and excitement with our development plans at the Outlanders River Camp,” an Oct. 5, 2021 letter from the developer to county officials reads.

“Blue Water has been successful in property hotel, campground, recreational attractions and residential property development by focusing on local community support and tourism. We spend a lot of time with owners, neighbors, area residents and business leaders to discover each property’s unique attributes and values so we can go to work making enhancements both guests and the local community will support and enjoy,” the 2021 letter to the county reads. “Rather than bring in large firms to partner with us as we progress through the property acquisition and development phase, we stand behind our family beliefs that the local community is where we invest and grow relationships…Blue Water is not just committed to meet local codes and regulations required to proceed with this effort, we will strive to exceed these expectations as we believe smart growth is the controlling element of success for this property and Page County.”

The public may review the draft permit and application at the DEQ office:

Megan O’Gorek, DEQ’s Valley Regional Office, 4411 Early Road, P.O. Box 3000, Harrisonburg, Va. 22801 – Phone (540) 217-7155 / email –



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