McDowell water system in crisis situation

Monterey, Va. – The McDowell water system situation has reached a crisis according to Highland County Board of Supervisors chairman David Blanchard. Recurring leaks have plagued the system for months. Water is currently being turned off at 9 PM and back on at 5 AM each day. McDowell residents have also complained that whenever the water system is shut down and then turned back on following maintenance, the water is brown and contains sediment that damages water heaters, stains laundry and makes the water undrinkable. Just recently, E. coli contamination was found in one of the three wells supplying the system requiring extra chlorine treatments and a boil drinking water order. Virginia Department of Health official Mark Perry addressed the supervisors at their meeting Tuesday evening.

“We’re getting close to a crisis situation out there and we want to do what we can to lend our support and cooperation in getting that done as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Perry. “We’ve been talking a lot to Roberta, obviously. We are reaching out to find some funding sources to try to help you all out as quickly as we can. We’re trying, as I’m sure you all are, trying to avoid a situation where the town is gonna run dry. But the primary goal here is we gotta stop these leaks first and foremost. Then we can concern ourselves with getting the source back in order – either treated or replaced. The boil water advisory is there for the well. Our primary concern is getting the leaks stopped and keep the tanks full and keep everybody in water twenty-four hours a day,” he said.

County officials and the Virginia Department of Health agree that the first priority must be to stop the leaks in the water system that are causing thousands of gallons of water to be lost each day. The first step in getting funding to pay for repairs to the water lines is to get cost estimates for the repair work so the county knows how much money to request from the state to fund the repairs. County administrator Roberta Lambert discusses these efforts.

“We did meet with several contractors last week to look at getting some quotes just to try to obtain some cost estimates for replacing approximately twelve hundred feet of line where we believe we may have one or more leaks, that, at this point we have been unable to detect the exact location,” said Ms. Lambert. “I did have two contractors that came back with quotes. One of those was Atkins Excavating of Greenville, Virginia. They gave us a quote of $75,577.01. Evers and Sons came back with a quote of $73,100,” she said.

Ms. Lambert and Supervisors chairman David Blanchard go on to discuss details of their work on these problems.

“Our primary reason for looking at a quote for replacement of all that is that it has been determined that chasing a leak, we’ll just (continue) to be chasing leaks,” said Mr. Blanchard. “It seems like as soon as we fix one leak, there’s another leak develops,” said Ms. Lambert. “Probably because of the condition of the existing pipe that’s in there which has been in there probably over twenty years. The Board is trying to determine whether the best alternative is to patch the line or replace the line,” she said. “And we don’t even know where to patch right now,” said Mr. Blanchard. “At this point we do not know where to patch,” said Ms. Lambert. “Right, and you all mentioned a crisis situation and I’d say that the folks who are having their water turned off every evening and are having to boil it, are feeling that they are in a crisis right now,” said Mr. Blanchard.

Although no formal decision was made at Tuesday’s meeting, it appears that the Supervisors will proceed with plans to replace 1200 feet of water line, in hopes that this will stop the leaks. When that is accomplished, the problem of the water quality in the wells can be addressed. It is possible that one or more new wells will have to be drilled. McDowell Volunteer Fire Department Chief Doug Siron asked the Supervisors what procedures the county has to turn water back on in case of a fire after water has been turned off at 9 PM. County Administrator Roberta Lambert replied that the county will see that there are people in McDowell who can turn the water system back on in case of a fire.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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