Dave Arnold, one of the managing partners for Class VI River Runners, speaks Tuesday at the unveiling of the company’s new sewer system.

LANSING — The topic of discussion Tuesday at Smokey’s On the Gorge would probably not make for appetizing dinner conversation.

It was supremely good news, however, for whitewater rafters and environmental enthusiasts alike who assembled on a very “green” West Virginia Day — the dual unveiling of both a new sewer system by Class VI River Runners and a State of the Environment report issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

While it is a small system, serving only eight new cabins Class VI has built in the woods across the road from the company’s New River Gorge complex, it is the first commercial application of its kind in West Virginia. And it could be the harbinger of sanitary solutions for other rural areas of the state.

“This is a good example of how development can be done right,” heralded Dave Arnold, one of the managing partners for Class VI.

“This symbolizes what Class VI does. A bunch of people worked to change a paradigm here. There is a lot of talk about development in this gorge. This is a model for how it can be done. In the end, everyone wants the exact same thing. The site disruption is very minimal, and the guests love what we’ve done. It is most remarkable.”

According to Arnold, Class VI managers researched the best possible method to make a minimum footprint on the building site. They centered on Orenco Systems Inc., an Oregon company that designs and manufactures decentralized wastewater technologies for individual properties and small communities.

Orenco’s three-phase system processes waste through special bacteria-eating filters in holding tanks. In the final step, effluent leaving the system passes through ultra-violet light, which takes the place of chlorine.

Standard septic systems, Arnold explained, require the installation of large leaching fields.

“That’s why rural homes and businesses have large, cleared areas around them. Standard septic systems require that you clear the land, whether you want to or not,” he noted.

“They (Class VI) have been very environmentally friendly, and they’ve done a great job,” Fayette County Commissioner Kenneth Eskew lauded as he professed the commission’s commitment to clean water and improving sewage service throughout Fayette County.

“We will continue to focus on water extension and hopefully be able to give tap water to everyone. A lot of folks in the county are in unserved areas for sewage service. The county is very much attuned and sensitive to environmental issues.”

Jeff Proctor, another Class VI managing partner, ascribed the success of the project to timing, faith and being a good listener.

Orenco representatives Gary Espinosa and Pete Kesecker spoke with wonder of the Mountain State’s beauty and reminded everyone their system is available for other developers who may be interested.

“This system is a model for any developer who doesn’t have the option of a sewer system,” Espinosa explained.

“This technology came from looking at failures in septic systems in Oregon during the mid-1980s. We began looking at other technologies.”

Kesecker, a West Virginia University graduate, proclaimed himself a Mountaineer at heart. “The switch is ready to be flipped, so to speak,” he said.

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DEP Secretary Stephanie Timmermeyer followed up with the release of West Virginia’s second State of the Environment report.

The DEP’s published compilation of facts about the state’s air, water and land is the most comprehensive collection of data available. It doesn’t draw conclusions about the environment, officials say, but it does present data for analysis and interpretation.

It continues the process — begun with a 2004 report released on Earth Day — of tracking changes in the state’s environment based on human activities.

“The tourism industry recognizes the value of good environmental quality,” Timmermeyer asserted.

“This is still a fledgling report. We want a more sophisticated report each time it comes out. This sets up a baseline whereby we can measure indicators over time. We can start to manage natural resources based on it.”

According to DEP, the report offers statistical tools for making informed business, social and personal decisions regarding practices and procedures that impact life and health.

“We hope to have even more indicators in the future. It’s no accident that the tourism industry is thriving,” said Timmermeyer, a self-proclaimed “West Virginian by choice.”

“They do what they can to lessen their footprint on the environment. That’s how this state will survive. This is an amazing state. I came here for college and never left. Happy West Virginia Day!”

For more information, visit online or call 926-0440.

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