VIR is optimistic about solution for faulty water system

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Problems with VIRginia International Raceway’s water system have local leaders pressing for a long-term solution for the motorsports complex, which has a major impact on the local economy.

The Halifax County Service Authority owns and operates VIR’s troubled water system. The system once used five wells, but three have been disconnected and taken out of service because of unsafe levels of chemicals. That has left VIR with a well that runs consistently and another one — called well No. 5 — that does so off and on along with a 250,000-gallon storage tank.

“Well No. 5 has elevated levels of fluoride and appears to be seasonal, perhaps due to fluctuating aquifer water levels,” says Mark Estes of the Halifax County Service Authority. “We only run well No. 5 when fluoride levels are low or non-detectable.”

The situation is cause for anxiety for Connie Nyholm, the CEO of VIR. She says the motorsports complex, an economic player in Southern Virginia, can do only so much as a customer of the water supplier, but she is hopeful a solution is on the way. In May, a report commissioned by VIR found that the motorsports complex contributes $237 million annually to the state economy and $197 million locally.

“We’re still in the optimism phase, not the do-or-die phase,” Nyholm says.

Local leaders are exploring two paths to solve VIR’s water troubles, and the sticking point is money.

The preferred, but more expensive, option is to connect VIR to the Pittsylvania County Service Authority water line just east of Danville at a cost of $3.8 million. Estes says officials in Danville, Pittsylvania and Halifax are working to get federal, state and local money to pay for the connection.

The less expensive alternative is to dig more wells, possibly with a treatment system, for around $750,000. Estes estimates this option would buy VIR 10 years for its water system.

Nyholm says that, because of the water issues, VIR has focused on sustaining itself rather than expanding. A new water line would help the business focus on growth. If a new line doesn’t come together, Nyholm says, she’s hopeful the less expensive option will.

“The shorter-term solution of wells and a filtration system could be an interim solution,” she says. “That’s why I still sleep at night.”

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