Pocahontas PSD Asks WV DEP To Reconsider Withdrawing Consent Order
Snowshoe, WV – In March of 2010, the West Virginia Dept of Environmental Protection issued a draft consent order allowing the Pocahontas County Public Service District some leeway in the release of certain pollutants by the Snowshoe sewer system. Late last month citing ongoing uncertainty and absence of substantive progress with the PSD’s proposed wastewater treatment facility, the DEP withdrew that order, opening the door for fines up to a quarter million dollars.
PSD Chairman Mark Smith read the PSD’s response letter to the DEP, drafted by fellow PSD member Tom Shipley and PSD attorney Tom Michael. The letter is addressed to Mike Zeto, Chief Inspector with the environmental enforcement division of the DEP.
PSD Letter to WV DEP
This letter is in reply to your letter of July 29th, 2010 in which you withdrew the draft consent letter from further consideration due to the ongoing dispute within the PSD.
In the past year, the PSD has selected a site for the proposed waste water treatment plant; submitted a revised facilities plan to the DEP; obtained an option on the proposed plant site; obtained and submitted to the DEP an environmental assessment of potential impacts to the karst biology; and reviewed and submitted to the DEP a proposed alternative design.
All of these steps have been taken in context with vigorous public debate. The next step in the process is the completion of the review of the facilities plan by the DEP.
The PSD remains committed to site seven as the preferred alternative for the waste water treatment plant site. It is true that this selection is supported by two board members and opposed by the third. Nonetheless, all three board members are firmly committed to seeking a solution to the inability of the current treatment system to meet permit limits.
The PSD board has unanimously adopted a capital improvements plan from which they have authorized several projects and equipment purchases outlaying several hundred thousand dollars to immediately address compliance issues. And they have engaged Rich Weigand of the West Virginia Environmental Training Services to assist with treatment issues; again, to immediately address compliance issues while the PSD is going through the process of planning a project.
The undersigned members of the Pocahontas County Public Service District request that you reconsider your decision to withdraw consideration of the draft consent order.
PSD member Tom Shipley says DEP Chief Zeto’s letter alludes to disagreement on the board. But Shipley says that’s part of the process.
“Vigorous debate is part of democracy, and it hurts sometimes and it’s not pretty but it is working.” says Shipley “His concern as expressed in the letter to us was that there is a disagreement within the board, but that is a part of a board’s responsibility.”
PSD Chairman Mark Smith agrees, saying it’s now up to the DEP to make the next move.
“I think this tells the DEP, we are doing what we can do, the ball has been served to you and it’s up to you to do something” says Smith. “We’ve done the capital improvements; we’re working on the violations. I don’t see that it’s begging for time or anything. I’m relatively sure that there’s been a whole lot of landmarks set in this case.”
Indeed, PSD member Amon Tracey says Thrasher Engineering consultant Jonathan Carpenter told him in 15 years of working on projects such as this, Carpenter has never seen the DEP take such an action. Cass resident Bill Liebman agrees, saying it wouldn’t make sense for the DEP to impose severe fines on the PSD.
“To think they’re really going to start doing $10,000.00 a day – the reality is it’d be a PR nightmare for the state to try and do that to any county, especially Pocahontas that has the notoriety within the state that Pocahontas County does” says Liebman.
Engineer David Rigby will speak at a meeting of the Snowshoe Property Owners Council on Saturday, August 14th. He has offered an alternative to the Site 7 regional plant plan supported by two of the three PSD members. He’s expected to give further detail concerning his proposal.