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

Area Sewage Spills Result In Fish Kills

Sunday June 10, 2007
The Inter-Mountain and Sunday Gazette-Mail

(From Eight Rivers Safe Development) -- Two articles follow which describe 2 fish-killing sewage spills that occurred in the last 2 weeks. The first article appears in the June 8 Elkins Inter-Mountain, and describes a spill in Elkins of "millions" of gallons of raw sewage. The second article appears in the Sunday Gazette-Mail and describes a 50,000 gallon raw sewage spill into fishing lakes near Milton.

These incidents clearly demonstrate the significant and immediate negative impact that a large sewage spill will have on the local area and receiving stream.

Concerning the proposed Snowshoe/Slatyfork sewage facility, this is precisely what is at stake in the Upper Elk River watershed—a single failure would have immediate, severe, and long-term impacts on the surface streams, caves, and springs resulting in widespread contamination of private drinking water wells and significant fish kills in the world-class fisheries of the Upper Elk River and Big Spring Fork.

Is this what we want? Is this a risk we are willing to take? If not for ourselves, then what about for future generations—our children and grandchildren—to be able to safely enjoy the clean waters of the Upper Elk River.

The answer is simple. This project needs to be stopped. Alternatives to a regional treatment plant must be considered. An Environmental Impact Statement MUST be prepared! It is required by West Virginia Law.

Please support our efforts. Write a letter to the Pocahontas PSD. Write a letter to the Pocahontas County Commission. Write a letter to the WV DEP. We need to stop this project or some day we will be reading in the Inter-Mountain about a fish kill and contamination of the Big Spring Fork and the questions being asked, "HOW DID WE LET THIS HAPPEN?" and "WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS MESS?"

The time to act is now. It is very easy to make a change to a plant design while it is on paper, however—as the following articles show—it is very difficult and expensive to clean up a spill after it has occurred.

Midland PSD May be Fined for Sewage Spill

By Julieanne Cooper, Staff Writer

June 8, 2007

Originally in The Inter-Mountain

After hundreds of thousands to millions of gallons of raw sewage spilled into the Chenoweth Creek last weekend, the Midland Public Service District may be facing "enforcement action" and has been ordered to clean the area, according to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. WVDEP Environmental Inspector Robin Dolly said his office was notified May 30 of a spill from the PSD's line which leads to the Elkins Wastewater Treatment Plant. These types of reports are not uncommon, he said, and are usually corrected within a short period of time. "A lot of plants report these spills," Dolly said. "They have that obligation to notify us," he said, but Midland did not report "the severity" of its spill. "Basically they were losing all the sewage to the Elkins line," Dolly said, "from 400,000 to 1 million gallons per day." The leak occurred over a five-day period, from May 30 until repairs were finished on Monday.

In addition to polluting the creek, Dolly said the spill also resulted in fish kills in the Chenoweth Creek that leads into the Tygart River. The area effected is located near the Ward Road, just south of Elkins.

Fines are "pending," Dolly said, adding that the PSD has also been notified they will be responsible for cleaning the mess left in the wake of the spill.

"The stream is in pretty bad shape," Dolly said.

"The enforcement action is pending," he said. "We're just waiting to see how cooperative they (Midland PSD) are."

Tom Oldham, a fish biologist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, said his office was also contacted about the spill and the condition of the stream.

Oldham said Midland's "breakdown" released sewage into the stream, killing thousands of fish. He said that the spill has effected over a mile of the stream and now there's "1.25 miles of dead stream."

The DEP was notified from the beginning, Oldham said, and the DNR has also submitted their investigation report. "But that still doesn't show the damage to the stream," he said.

"They (Midland PSD) did not report the spill correctly," Oldham said. "They had a leak," but did not say how bad the leak truly was, he said. "They should have notified the proper authorities in a truthful way."

In the DNR's investigation just looking at the creek, Oldham said "you get a bad feeling when you see sewage and dead fish." He said Midland's "equipment malfunction" should have been a "high priority" corrected as soon as feasibly possible.

The PSD was back "online" Tuesday, according to Dolly.

As part of an agreement with the Elkins Wastewater Treatment Plant, thousands of gallons of sewage from Midland PSD are sent through underground pipes to the Elkins facility for treatment. But Mike Wolfe, manager of the EWT, said he was notified of what was going on until after the problem had been fixed.

"I didn't know they had anything going on down there," Wolfe said. It wasn't until Wednesday that he said he received a call from Dolly.

Midland PSD Manager Ron Vance told The Inter-Mountain earlier this week that he was not "authorized to make any comment." PSD Chairman Frank Santmeyer did not immediately return phone calls and could not be reached by press time today.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Web site,, "A sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) can spill raw sewage into basements or out of manholes and onto city streets, playgrounds and into streams, before it can reach a treatment facility.

SSOs are discharges of raw sewage from municipal sanitary sewer systems, when untreated sewage such as toilet water, restaurant and industrial waste backs up into buildings and homes, overflows from manhole covers, breaks in pipes, and discharges onto surrounding land and/or streams.

The EPA "has found that sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) caused by poor sewer collection system management pose a substantial health and environmental challenge in some parts of our nation," the site states. "SSOs occasionally occur in almost every sewer system even though systems are intended to collect and contain all the sewage that flows into them.

"Problems that can cause SSOs include: Too much rainfall or snowmelt infiltrating through the ground into leaky sanitary sewers, which are not intended to hold rainfall or to drain property. Excess water can also inflow through roof drains connected to sewers and broken or badly connected sewer service lines; sewers and pumps too small to carry sewage from newly-developed subdivisions or commercial areas; blocked, broken or cracked pipes and other equipment or power failures that keep the system from doing its job. Tree roots can grow into the sewer. Sections of pipe can settle or shift so that pipe joints no longer match. Sediment and other material can build up and cause pipes to break or collapse. This can also happen to sewer service connections to houses and other buildings. Some cities estimate that as much as 60 percent of the water over-filling their sewer systems comes from service lines."

The major types of problems that cause SSOs most frequently include a deteriorating sewer system, when sewers are not properly installed or maintained, widespread problems that can be expensive to fix develop over time. Some municipalities have found severe problems, necessitating billion-dollar correction programs. Often, communities have had to curtail new development until problems are corrected or system capacity is increased.

"Because SSOs contain raw sewage they can carry bacteria, viruses, protozoa (parasitic organisms), helminths (intestinal worms), and bioaerosols (inhalable molds and fungi)," the site states.

Fox Fire to reopen after sewage spill

June 4, 2007

Originally in the Sunday Gazette-Mail

An owner said Fox Fire Resort would reopen next weekend despite a spill Friday that sent about 50,000 gallons of raw sewage into its fishing lakes near Milton.

Marie Cunningham, co-owner of Fox Fire, said the Friday morning spill killed about 1,000 fish after a sewage pump at a nearby lift station malfunctioned.

Cunningham believes an alarm system to notify the lift station's operators of the malfunction either was turned off or also failed.

A call to Dunn Engineers, the station's Charleston-based operator, was unsuccessful Sunday afternoon.

The spill raised the water level in the lakes. At first, it moved into one lake, migrated into a canal connecting all the property's lakes, and then spread farther, Cunningham said.

Cunningham says the spill killed largemouth bass, flathead catfish, carp, white crappie, bluegill and other species of fish.

"Needless to say, it hurt our business this weekend," she said.

Cunningham said representatives from the state Division of Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Salt Rock Public Service District have all been on the scene to assess the situation and help with the cleanup. The PSD used a device to try and increase the oxygen level in the lakes, she said.

She and her husband plan to restock fish this week.

"They're working on it and Fox Fire will be open again this weekend," Cunningham said.