The Times West Virginian

Local News

June 26, 2014

Fairview water project completion date ‘in sight’

FAIRMONT — As Fairview residents express frustrations about the delays in the town’s water line extension project, officials say a completion date is in sight.

Craig Cobb, supervising district engineer for the Philippi District Office of the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, said the project is looking pretty good, with just a few minor issues to settle and some final cleanup to do.

“In essence, the project is done and everything is working,” he said. “The system is basically ready to serve customers.”

The water operators planned to hook up between 30 and 40 new customers to the water line this week. This is in addition to the 21 new customers, including the Marion County Mine, formerly Loveridge Mine, that are already being served, Cobb said.

He said the hope is to have all the customers that want service on line by the end of July at the latest. Cobb commented that he empathizes with the citizens who have been waiting, and assured them that they will have good water service soon.

This $4.6 million effort has been in the works for several years now and has gone through many changes and complications during that time. In the end, water will be supplied to around 120 customers on the outskirts of town who have had well water that is contaminated.

The town has taken out $1.3 million in loans for the project and has received grants to cover the remainder of the cost. Fairview has been working with engineer Woolpert Inc. and contractor PRO Contracting Inc. on the endeavor.

A sign located on Route 218 breaks down the funding for this public water supply project.

The funding includes a $1.1 million Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council Grant; a $1.5 million West Virginia Development Office/U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Small Cities Block Grant; $440,000 from the Monongalia County Commission; $200,000 from the Marion County Commission; and $100,000 from Consol Energy.

In terms of loans, the town has a $1.1 million Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council Loan, and a $200,000 Department of Health and Human Resources Drinking Water Treatment Revolving Fund Loan.

For the past two years, Cobb has been going to Fairview once a month for updates on the project, and his most recent visit was last week. He explained that this was supposed to be a 12-month project, starting in the summer of 2012 with completion a year later.

“The real hold-up was finding and drilling a well that had good water quality and good quantity,” Cobb said. “At one point, we were starting to wonder if we were ever going to find a well that would fit the bill.”

But a good well was finally found, and it’s now in service to produce the additional water needed to serve the customers, he said. The well was put on line last month after water quality tests were performed.

Cobb said the operating staff has taken a conservative approach to make sure that each section of the new distribution system that is added is tested, disinfected and safe before any customers are connected for service.

Fairview Mayor Arley Simmons said new customers have been put on line this week and will continue to be added in segments. As new customers are provided water in sections, testing will continue.

“Everybody should be on by the last of July for sure,” he said.

The Town of Fairview recently sent a notice to some of the customers informing them that on Monday, June 23, it would start connecting residents to the water line from the old Loveridge Mine to the end of the project on the Klondike side. People are asked to call the water department at 304-449-1370 to get their meters turned on.

“All new customers will be on a temporary boil water advisory until further notice because of possible cross connections,” the letter says.

The notice continues, “After the entire project has been completely turned on, we will come back through and inspect. The plumbing customers out of compliance will have their service disconnected and the boil water will be lifted.”

Heather Tuttle, recorder for the Town of Fairview, added that the town is updating records and trying to make sure that it has the current mailing addresses and phone numbers for people getting service through the water extension for billing purposes.

Chris Scritchfield, lead operator for the Fairview water plant, said the town will keep putting more customers on line as the test results come back and it is able to flush more of the water lines. Samples are being taken to make sure the water meets all state guidelines.

So far, the town has done two stages of adding customers, which included the Marion County Mine in the first stage and delays due to problems with the well, he said. The rest of the customers will be added in three stages, which should come on line faster.

Scritchfield agreed that as long as everything goes smoothly and no issues come up, the estimated completion date of the end of July will be very doable.

He commented that he’s definitely ready to get everybody in service, which will help provide the town money to start paying back its loan. But the town has to make sure the water is safe, which is why the samples are being collected and testing is being done.

“We’re all in agreement,” Scritchfield said. “We’re just trying to get (everybody’s water service) turned on as fast as we can.”

Kenny Moore, a lifelong Fairview resident, is one of the customers who have been waiting to get water through the project, which he said has been going on for eight years now.

He also serves on the Fairview Water Extension Committee, which has seven members, and was one of the first people to complain years ago about not having water when his well went dry.

The water on the outskirts of town was tested, and all the samples showed the presence of e-coli. This was a state of emergency, with the water not fit for use, which is how the town got much of the funding for the water extension project, Moore said.

His well has gotten worse over the last couple of years, and he’s just hoping and praying it holds out long enough for him to get water from the town. Moore said these residents have been promised water for the past year, and some people are having to haul in water.

“We’ve got some older people that really, really need some water,” he said. “They’ve had to be very conservative with their water. Some of them don’t even have enough water to wash their clothes. It’s a bad situation.”

Moore just wants the water turned on so the people who have been waiting so long can finally have decent water to use.

He and the other members of the Fairview Water Extension Committee have worked very hard contacting different government officials and representatives to try to get answers.

“It’s an emergency,” he said. “We need to get this water out to these people.”

One person that Moore recently contacted for help was Marion County Delegate Linda Longstreth.

Longstreth said that she and her colleagues, Delegates Mike Caputo and Tim Manchin, have tried to help all that they can with the project over the years.

She said the people have been frustrated about not receiving water, and they wanted to know an update on the status of the project. Those residents are anxious to have regular water from the town, which is long overdue.

Longstreth advised the concerned citizens to give it a little bit more time, because projects like this take time. But hopefully this issue will be taken care of soon.

“We hope to get everybody hooked up and have water in a few weeks,” she said.

Longstreth and her fellow Marion County delegates will follow up again on the project. She gave the residents of Fairview and the surrounding vicinity credit for the hard work they have put toward getting this water.

Telephone calls that the Times West Virginian made to Woolpert Inc. were not returned in time for this report.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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