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PSD remains quiet on Eight Rivers presentation

Thursday June 7, 2007
The Pocahontas Times

by Drew Tanner
Staff Writer

It was what board members didn't say that got the attention of people who attended the county Public Service District's meeting May 29.

Members of the PSD said little about a presentation given earlier in the month by Eight Rivers Safe Development on the potential hazards of the wastewater treatment plant proposed for Slaty Fork.

Immediately after that presentation, treasurer Mark Smith said he anticipated the board would discuss the presentation "at some length" during the PSD's next meeting.

Instead, most of the PSD's agenda Tuesday night dealt with issues at the Durbin water plant, such as ordering pipes and fittings, a new roof for the old water plant at Frank-now used for storage-and a major leak that erupted the same day as the Eight Rivers presentation.

On May 8, plant manager Ricky Barkley was called out to repair a ruptured portion of an eight-inch water supply line between Frank and Durbin. Barkley said Tuesday he could hear the plastic pipe cracking as he dug to get to the leak. In total, about 15 feet of pipe ruptured, resulting in a loss of about 50,000 gallons of water in 20 minutes, Barkley said.

At that evening's presentation, Eight Rivers president George Phillips warned PSD members of the potential for leaks in plastic pipes that will be used in the Slaty Fork sewage plant, some of which will be pressurized "force mains" used to move sewage where it will not flow by gravity.

But neither leaking pipes or any of Phillips' other points were addressed by board members during last week's meeting.

"I was hoping there would be a discussion of that proposal," a Snowshoe homeowner told the board. "I was hoping to listen to some of the pros and cons as you all see them."

The homeowner, who asked not to be identified, asked the board if such a discussion would appear on a future meeting's agenda.

"I, personally, would have to hear from our engineering firm," replied Smith.

Smith said he did not have enough information to determine the pros and cons of Phillips' proposal.

"I've read some things, but a piece of paper doesn't refuse ink," Smith said. "Depending on who wrote that particular bit of information that I read-they can slant the story any direction."

"I'm not certain with the limited information that I have on it, that I would feel in any way comfortable making or considering an informed decision," Smith added.

The homeowner, however, urged Smith and his fellow board members to try to make some considerations and arrive at an informed decision.

"It's a very expensive proposition to make a new plant, when an old one might be retrofitted for one third of the cost," the homeowner said. "As a homeowner in the affected area, I can tell you I'm very concerned, as most anyone would be, about bills that are going to increase initially by 300 percent, and at the end of the project 500 percent. It's an enormous, new responsibility."

The new plant is estimated to cost approximately $18 million.

"I feel like I, as a consumer, have paid for a sewage treatment plant one time, through my rates," the homeowner added.

Many homeowners at the resort, including the homeowner who spoke Tuesday, pay about $11 a month for sewer service. Interim rates, which will go into effect once the PSD takes over Snowshoe's wastewater treatment facilities will start at $33 a month. Once the Slaty Fork plant is completed, the state-approved rates begin at $49.50.

Skip Mills, Snowshoe Property Owners Council's executive director, said at the May 8 presentation his group supported Eight Rivers' proposal of upgrading Snowshoe Mountain Resort's existing treatment facilities and using smaller, cluster systems to treat developments in the valley.

After the meeting, by phone, Thrasher project engineer Ken Moran said he intends to talk to George Phillips once his firm is able to move forward with revising the project plans to meet Department of Environmental Protection requirements.

The DEP has said discharge from the plant must not raise the temperature of the upper Elk River beyond what the river's trout could tolerate. To meet the DEP requirement, the plant will need to be equipped with an estimated $1 million in cooling equipment, according to project planners.

Given the amount owed to Thrasher for the engineering work that has been done so far, Moran said the firm is waiting for the funding requested by the PSD from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development before doing any more work on the project, including the redesign necessary to meet the DEP's requirements.

The IJDC plans on providing $9.5 million for the project. The PSD has recently asked to have $2.5 million available now to pay Thrasher and other project costs incurred so far.

The PSD's request will go before the IJDC for final approval June 6. Conservation groups opposed to the project and representatives from SPOC say they plan to attend the Wednesday meeting to voice their concerns.