By Brandi Underwood
A project that has been more than a decade in the making will soon become a reality for Fayette County’s small town of Winona.
In large part due to the hard work of Rep. Nick Rahall, Fayette County Resource Coordinator Dave Pollard and the Fayette County Commission, a wastewater treatment system will soon serve the more than 100 people residing in the rural community of Winona.
“The Fayette County Wastewater Management Plan began as an effort to protect the public health after devastating floods removed septic fields and tore up traditional infrastructure in 2001,” said Pollard.
Local leaders banded together to collect data revealing dangerous levels of fecal coliform in creeks running through Fayette County and into the New River, Pollard said, adding that water quality had been a chronic problem even in years prior to the flood due to aging septic systems, straight pipes and traditional sewer systems in need of repair.
Working directly with Rep. Rahall, the county received a $450,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant that was used to evaluate sewer needs across the county, Pollard said. Winona, where Keeney’s Creek tested to contain unsafe fecal coliform levels more than 96 percent of the times it was sampled, was deemed as a priority project.
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In February, New Haven Public Service District in Fayette County closed the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection financing to complete a more than $3 million wastewater management project, Pollard said.
The funds came from the DEP’s Green Infrastructure Program.
“Patience is the key word (for this project),” Rahall said, adding that finally securing project funding was the result of teamwork and coordination across several agencies.
“Water and wastewater facilities are a basic necessity of life,” Rahall said.
“Our federal government is a partner in this effort,” Rahall said. “In days when people want to do away with our federal government, I believe there is still a role for the federal government in so many aspects of our life. I believe they can be a working, viable partner, and that’s what they are this project.”
Rahall said that with more than $400,000 in federal funds, Fayette County is currently in a high-level planning mode for Winona’s wastewater solution implementation.
Designed by Lombardo Associates, Inc., an environmental consulting and engineering firm specializing in the development and implementation of creative solutions for wastewater management, the project model includes a low-flow wastewater system that uses a recirculating sand filter and a riparian buffer, Rahall said.
“While I’m not an engineer, a biologist or a water quality expert, I do understand quite clearly the final design rollout, and the public’s $3 million plus project, slated to go to bid this fall, saves precious dollars, public and private dollars.”
Rahall said that families will benefit from lower sewage bills and governments will benefit because the design cost is less than that of a traditional system.
“The added beauty is that this system can serve as a model for other communities across the country,” Rahall said.
“The Fayette County Commission has been responsible for a great deal of this funding as well, $125,000, if I’m not mistaken,” Rahall said.
Commissioner Matthew Wender followed Rahall’s words with his own words of praise for the New Haven Public Service District, which will be accommodating the wastewater system.
“I’m always amazed by how willing they are (to work with us),” Wender said. “It’s been a water public service district up until now, and I think this is their first effort in a sewage (treatment) capacity, and I’m sure that’s quite a leap.”
Wender expressed gratitude for Kenny Hayes, chairman of New Haven PSD, and his commissioners for their flexibility and willingness to jump into new projects.
John Tuggle, executive director of Region 4 Planning and Development Council, echoed the same sentiment.
“The New Haven PSD stepping forward, and stepping into an endeavor that’s somewhat unknown, is a big deal,” Tuggle said.
He also commended the commission for taking the lead on implementing the new decentralized sewer treatment application, adding that he hopes to see the model spread to other rural areas facing similar challenges.
“This is such a huge milestone to improve the water quality of the New River,” said Patricia Kicklighter, superintendent of the New River Gorge National River. “We have a lot of hard work ahead of us for other improvements, but this is such a huge step forward.”
“It just goes to show you how people working together can really make things happen,” said Commission President Denise Scalph.
Rahall also expressed recognized the Region 4 Planning and Development Council, Plateau Action Network and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for their continued support in seeing the project to fruition.
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