Pocahontas PSD reconsiders alternatives
Linwood, W.Va. – During Tuesday night’s Pocahontas Public Service District meeting, the board considered various options for a Snowshoe-area sewage system. For a proper cost analysis, the Department of Environmental Protection required the PSD to reconsider alternatives, to include a centralized system designed by contract engineer WWMI.
The board heard public comments prior to its decision.
Charleston attorney Phil Melick is representing five valleys landowners, who favor a centralized, large capacity plant in the valley – to serve the entire area. Melick tells the board that promised cost savings with a decentralized system have not materialized.
“The Public Service Commission told this PSD that it could have an opportunity, with this new engineer, to determine whether there would be substantial savings through a decentralized alternative to 7-12,” he said. “It would appear on the face of this document, that we see tonight, that that analysis is not proven out.”
Local environmental groups, cavers, the Snowshoe Property Owners Council, and other area residents oppose a centralized design, which would carry Snowshoe’s untreated waste into the valley. Cass resident Bill Liebman, representing local cavers, says it would be impossible to clean the watershed in the event of a sewage pipeline spill.
“These caves provide prime biologic, hydrologic, scientific study areas, as well as feeding water into people’s water wells for drinking,” he said. “In these areas where the water often supplies caves to private wells, flowing caves is an open conduit flow. Once it gets in there, it moves very rapidly and is dispersed very rapidly. Unfortunately, underground, you don’t have access to be able to clean it up, the way you would a spill on the surface, and this is people’s drinking water.”
Liebman added that caving attracts thousands of tourists to Pocahontas County every year.
George Bell, president of the Elk Headwaters Watershed Association, says the group opposes the centralized option.
“There are three key reasons that EHWA favors the decentralized approach to wastewater treatment in our service district,” he said. “Treatment near the source is one. Environmental hazard and risk management is the second, and the third is the anticipated waste volume and assimilative capacity of the receiving stream.”
“Treatment of the waste from Snowshoe at a mountaintop-based facility eliminates the need for a high risk pipeline to transport the waste across very challenging terrain.”
Elk River resident Tolly Peleuche tells the board she’s disappointed to hear talk of a centralized plant again.
“All of a sudden I’m hearing centralized plant, again,” she said. “I have to repeat – I’m a downstream landowner. This troubles me a lot. I don’t want to have to come back here and say, ‘come drill me a new well,’ because it is not an easy matter to drill a well in karst.”
Snowshoe resident Mike Pancione says land speculation should not drive the PSD’s decision.
“Speculaltion by five land holders slash developers in the valley should not be a driver for configuration or location of the new plant,” he said. “Latest U.S. Census data shows the county’s population has declined about 10-percent in the last decade.”
“New construction is virtually stagnant, at and around Snowshoe,” he added.
The board voted 2-1 to select a decentralized system, which will include a 400,000 gpd plant at Snowshoe Village and a 150,000 gpd plant behind the Inn at Snowshoe. Board member Amon Tracey voted in opposition and has supported the Thrasher design.