Members of the Page-Kincaid Public Service District Commission met Tuesday morning for their regular monthly meeting, though the majority of their time was spent discussing the discolored water that has been coming through their lines for the recent past.
“We owe the community clean water,” said PSD Commissioner James Kincaid during the meeting. “This system is almost 40 years old. Nothing lasts.”
While the system may be old, the commission believes that blasting from nearby coal mines damaged the aquifer from which the PSD draws its water, causing iron intrusion.
“We think, without much doubt, that vibration from the blasting has fractured our well,” Kincaid said.
Kincaid called the situation “pitiful.” He said when things were right, the PSD had great water, due in large part to the choice to drill into an aquifer instead of getting their water from other sources.
To remedy the situation, the PSD has filed for grants to upgrade their filtration system, and in August, were awarded over a half million dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the project.
That project consists of replacing two existing filters which have been in place, upgrades to high service pumps and replacing other water treatment equipment.
Along with the two existing filters, the scope of work would call for an additional third filter to be installed, which would increase the plant’s output from 300 gallons per minute to 450 gallons per minute.
“These jobs take a long time to get to construction,” said Jesse Alden, a representative from Thrasher, the engineering firm that the PSD has contracted for the work. “The water board here has been talking about this project for years.”
While the grant funding is there, the project is still in its infancy.
“We all want this project to happen tomorrow, but just with the amount of stuff that needs to be done, everyone is aware that’s not going to happen,” Alden said.
Alden said the design work for the project is expected to be completed by the end of February, though he added that the design work will still need to go through multiple agencies for permitting before finally being put out for bid.
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While a quick permanent solution is out of the question, Alden and the commission discussed a temporary solution that could not only help provide clean water, but could possibly speed up construction on the permanent project when it gets underway.
The temporary fix would consist of trucking in a mobile trailer-mounted water treatment plant to service the PSD’s customers.
“We could hook this thing up and pipe clean water to all the customers while we are working on the new water treatment upgrade project,” Alden said. “Something needs to happen immediately to help the situation because it’s going to be a while before this thing goes to construction.”
Bob Curley, a representative from Layne, a global water management company which owns mobile treatment plants, was on hand to share the costs of such a temporary fix with the commission.
According to Curley, his company would rent out the mobile plant to the PSD for $240,000 for a year.
That price includes mobilization of the plant and technical assistance, but does not include the construction of a level gravel pad for the mobile plant or its piping connection to the existing system.
While advocating for the mobile plant, Alden also said construction on the permanent plant could be accelerated with water flowing through the temporary plant.
According to Curly, if the PSD decides to go forward with the temporary plant immediately, his company could have it installed by the end of January.
With the possibility of a temporary fix, the commission discussed how they could pay for the rent associated with it.
“I do believe with some discussion and some brainstorming, that we can get this thing done hopefully really quick,” Kincaid said, alluding that the PSD could seek donations if necessary. “We will get this thing fixed one way or the other.”
John David, a member of the PSD, said that there were three potential funding sources:
• The collection of an insurance claim. David said the PSD was denied on an initial claim, though it has filed another claim.
• The use of coal severance taxes. While David noted that Fayette County’s severance tax is down, he questioned why the funds aren’t spent on the areas directly impacted by mining, such as the Page-Kincaid area which is sandwiched between two active mines.
“We feel that coal severance money should be prioritized to help people in areas where the coal is mined,” David said.
• An ongoing legal suit. According to court documents filed last Friday, the Fayette County Commission has filed suit against the Seminole West Virginia Mining Company which operates a mine in the vicinity of the Page-Kincaid PSD.
That suit alleges that Seminole has caused a public nuisance to the community through its blasting, which the PSD commission believes damaged the aquifer.
David mentioned the suit as a third possibility, but noted that the process would be lengthy.
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At Tuesday’s meeting, the commission asked that the representatives of Thrasher and Layne create a proposal package for the temporary water treatment plant which the PSD could present to anyone who could possibly help them find funding for the temporary fix.
The commission specifically mentioned the Fayette County Commission and the Governor’s Office.
“Pure, clean drinking water is the most essential thing that we need,” Kincaid said. “This is like an 85-year-old person laying in the hospital bed.”
A community meeting has been scheduled for Friday, Jan. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Christian Revival Center in Robson with members of the community and the PSD commission invited to discuss their concerns.
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