Residents rally over sewage concerns

DAILEY – Residents of East Dailey and Valley Bend have taken their concerns with waste water surfacing in their yards to local and state government officials, but the parties cannot seem to agree on a solution.

More than 50 residents congregated at the Dailey Fire Hall March 11 to talk over the situation – sewage and waste water surfacing on their property – that has plagued them for months.

The meeting was called in response to the Huttonsville Public Service District’s plan, pending approval by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, to create a temporary solution by draining the waste water into the Tygart River.

“The meeting was an opportunity for us to see how many people were having the same problems that we were and to try and stop them from dumping the contaminated water into the river,” said Janice Wamsley, a Valley Head resident.

Both Wamsley and her husband, Andy, a former Randolph County Commissioner, attended the March 11 meeting. She said they attribute damage to their property and the death of some of their livestock to exposure to raw sewage.

Andy Wamsley raised his concerns to the Huttonsville PSD in September, asking for a solution to the problem.

He wrote in a letter to the PSD that after the area received two rains and about four to five inches of water he noticed sewage was overflowing from the pipes leading from the pump on his property.

The Wamsleys and other residents, including Sue Hinzman of Valley Head, are acquiring signatures and support for two document. The first is a letter asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to prevent the DEP and Huttonsville PSD from draining the waste water into the Tygart River.

The second is a petition to file a civil lawsuit against the Huttonsville PSD for damages to residents’ property.

On Thursday, Huttonsville PSD officials offered their side of the issue to The Inter-Mountain.

“What we are proposing is draining the surface water from those areas,” said Gary Morgan, a Huttonsville PSD board member. “That’s all. It would only be in times of excessive rainfall when the system is overwhelmed. We would be draining the surface water so that it is not pooling in people’s property, treating it with a chlorine solution and pumping it back into the river.

“We want to set the record straight,” Morgan added. “We are absolutely not draining raw sewage into the Tygart Valley River.”

Pat Shreve, the chief waste water operator for the Huttonsville PSD, released a statement that detailed the process the agency would like to implement.

“The Huttonsville PSD has received a signed ordinance from the DEP for a SSO (sanitary sewer overflow system) to be installed,” Shreve wrote in a statement Thursday. “This is pending approval from the DEP. We are wanting to run a line down to the river bank and put it through a septic tank and then chlorinate it at the end. We are trying to set up a septic tank so that we can screen it and the tank will allow solids to settle. Then we will chlorinate it.”

Louise McAtee, general manager of the Huttonsville PSD, released a timeline for the implementation of the SSO system. The DEP ordinance states the agency must inform all customers about the project by March 31, as well as informing customers that they must disconnect or correct the sources of “extraneous flows” from their service lines by May 31.

“Customers are required to unhook any down spouting, roof drains or storm sewers that are connected to the sewer lines,” McAtee explained.

If customers do not disconnect by the deadline, they can be fined and their water service could eventually be terminated, McAtee added.

The Huttonsville PSD acknowledged Thursday that there is no solitary solution to the situation, and that the area has a long history of water line difficulties.

“The rehabilitation to the lines has been ongoing since 2003,” said McAtee. “We are essentially talking about refurbishing a system that was built in the 1930s.”

“Part of the issue is that a large portion of the area is covered in clay and it is difficult for clay to absorb water as quickly as, say, soil or dirt, so it sits there on the surface,” Morgan explained. “There are large portions of the area that are swamp lands as well. We are trying to find a feasible solution that will allow us to make some progress in that area.”

Morgan, who stressed that he is a farmer and also depends on the PSD’s water, said he does not believe the waste water is currently dangerous.

“We had the (waste) water tested and it came back reading at about the same contamination level as rainwater,” Morgan said.

Shreve said he attended the March 11 community meeting, but left out of frustration with what he termed “misinformation” being presented by residents.

When asked about whether the agency would be interested in reaching out to the public about working together toward a common solution, the Huttonsville PSD officials said the public is invited to attend their next Board of Directors meeting Thursday at 10 a.m., at which time the issue will be discussed.