Pipe dreamer: Frederick wants millions (of gallons)

For a utilities director, Thomas Frederick's experience is hard to beat: he's been an expert on the subject for 25 years, most recently in Asheville, that hip enclave in the Carolina foothills.

Last year Frederick was even so bold as to assume control of the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority, a position from which everyone else seems to flee: since 2001, four people have sat in the executive director's seat. This game of hot potato results in part from the flood of troubles surrounding the local water supply.

Frederick says that Charlottesville leaders identified water as a scarce commodity as early as the 1970s.

"A lot of people think that water trouble began with the drought of 2002," says Frederick, "but that was only a symptom of other water problems. The latest studies on local water supplies would have occurred with or without the drought."

What those studies turned up is that the Charlottesville urban area, with its current 13 million gallon-per-day water capacity and ever-increasing population– now around 125,000– will need an additional 9.9 million gallons daily by the year 2055. The latest controversy in the water world surrounds a potential source: the James River pipeline.

The proposed pipeline, from the James River at Scottsville to Charlottesville (potentially along Route 20), is one of four solutions to the expected water shortage. Yet the $49.9 million proposal is undoubtedly the one that has sparked the most debate.

"There's a general concern about development along the pipeline," says Scottsville mayor Stephen Phipps. "And of course there are environmental issues to consider."

While Frederick claims that the real estate argument "isn't really fair," he says he takes all public concerns into consideration.

"We're aware that a number of people are opposed to the pipeline," he says. "And we value the public voice."

Frederick must put his years of public utilities knowledge to work in weighing the proposed solutions. In addition to the pipeline, upgrading the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, increasing the height of the dam or dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir are all under consideration. Naturally, Frederick wants to do whatever is most environmentally friendly, provides the healthiest drinking water, and pleases as many people as possible.

Despite the numerous concerns, he remains optimistic that a positive solution can be found.

"The key," he says, "is communication among everyone– the boards, at all levels, and the public."


Age: 48

Why here? Great setting and opportunities for a smaller city, and an opportunity for me to return to utility management

What's worst about living here? Five o'clock traffic

Favorite hangout? Anywhere on the Downtown Mall

Most overrated virtue? Orderliness

People would be surprised to know: As a boy, I wanted to be a NASA scientist.

What would you change about yourself? More time to read for fun

Proudest accomplishment? Reorganization of Water Maintenance Division in Asheville, NC

People find most annoying about you: I'm not easily persuaded by pressure.

Whom do you admire? Sir Winston Churchill

Favorite book? Iron John, by Robert Bly

Subject that causes you to rant? Statements I hear that I know are not true

Biggest 21st-century thrill? The scope of the Internet

Biggest 21st-century creep out? Spyware

What do you drive? Nissan Altima

In your car CD player right now: Diana Krall: The Girl in the Other Room

Next journey? Quebec City for summer vacation

Most trouble you've ever gotten in? Speeding ticket

Regret: Not getting out of the stock market before the bubble burst

Favorite comfort food: Oatmeal raisin cookies

Always in your refrigerator: Tea

Must-see TV: Old James Bond movies

Favorite cartoon: Bugs Bunny

Describe a perfect day. Quality time with a good friend

Walter Mitty fantasy: Become a spy on a secret mission

Who'd play you in the movie? Mel Gibson

Most embarrassing moment? Introducing a speaker with the wrong biographical notes

Best advice you ever got? Be patient.

Favorite bumper sticker? "If we don't change direction, we'll get where we're going"

Thomas Frederick