Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.

Invited Letter to The Pocahontas Times from Fairley Workman

Thursday October 26, 2006
The Pocahontas Times

P.T. Editor's Note: "Last week, I challenged Mr. Workman to write a letter concerning an aspect of the Slaty Fork Wastewater Treatment Plant never addressed by any other letter writer, with the agreement that if he did, I would print it. He did."

Despite numerous letters to your newspaper, I do not recall any serious attempt to highlight the fact that the PSD plans to assume Snowshoe's liability for their sewage treatment plant and related infrastructure in a three phase transfer agreement. As I understand the agreement, Snowshoe Water and Sewer, Inc will accept liability before the agreement is final and will fix the problem(s) during the transfer period but will bill the PSD. Once the agreement becomes final, the PSD assumes full liability even if the problem was the result of something Snowshoe did.

In addition, Snowshoe will bill the PSD for $40,000 a month to run Snowshoe Water & Sewer during the transfer period.

In my previous business life, I had extensive experience in evaluating manufacturing facilities our company planned to purchase. In cases where existing environmental problems were discovered, we would not purchase those facilities even though they offered to assume full liability for any past or present problems. The main reason we would not deal with such facilities was because we knew it was virtually impossible to prove which party was responsible for future problems. Also, we knew the potential cleanup costs, especially of ground water contamination, could easily run into the 10s of millions of dollars.

The main questions I am posing are:

  1. Do the PSD & County Commission (CC) have an independent engineering estimate of how much money it will cost to cleanup the failing infrastructure of Snowshoe's sewage systems?
  2. Do they understand that the PSD and their customers will be held responsible for any and all problems on Snowshoe Mountain?
  3. Have they recalculated the customer monthly rates accordingly?
  4. Have they calculated the extra costs involved (including lawyer fees, cooling towers, land cost, etc.) to locate the plant on the Sharp farm instead of state land?

Further, the economics become interesting as this project drags on and on. The initial total project cost was reported at approximately $12,000,000 in 2003; now the "not to exceed cost" is $21,580,000 (includes 10% contingency). The original customer monthly rate was $36 which was raised to $49 and most recently to $54+. This is for sewage only and will likely go much higher when the PSD assumes Snowshoe's liability and consequential cleanup costs.

The people of Pocahontas County have spoken, they do not want the sewage treatment plant on the Sharp farm and do not want to assume the environmental liability of a private company.

In conclusion, I am outraged that our elected and appointed officials have taken it upon themselves to violate the principle that private industry is responsible for correcting its own environmental problems.

Fairley Workman
Slaty Fork