Tapping Clean Water

Every day we take for granted one of the most important substances to our existence ? water. As Americans, we routinely turn on the tap without much thought and expect clean water to flow. But even here in the United States, some communities lack access to high-quality, reliable water supplies.

Thanks to a collaborative effort between the Boone County Commission, Boone County Public Service District, State of West Virginia and West Virginia American Water, the residents of Prenter, W.Va., now receive high-quality public water service for the first time.

Until recently, residents of the rural community of Prenter did not have access to a public water system; they mostly relied on private wells for their water. Prenter residents were deeply concerned about the safety of their water supplies. Since private wells are not regulated by any state or federal agency, they are susceptible to potential contaminants from septic systems, agricultural livestock operations, oil and gas production, and mining operations, which are all prevalent in this region. Many Prenter residents had expressed concerns about the potential impacts these activities could have on well water, which so many people relied upon in this area of the state.

Additionally, this region, like many communities in West Virginia, is mountainous and rural, which makes it challenging and expensive to provide water treatment and distribution facilities. There were no existing facilities in the immediate area to serve these residents.

For years, the Boone County Commission, Boone County Public Service District and West Virginia American Water have been active in the development of high-quality water supplies in Boone County. The group identified a solution for Prenter that would involve construction of a $2.2 million water line extension to connect this community to West Virginia American Water?s Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant, about 37 miles away.

The bulk of the funding for the public-private partnership project, $1.5 million, came from a Small Cities Block Grant, which was provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered through the state Development Office?s Community Development Division. The Boone County Commission and West Virginia American Water provided the remainder of the money for the project, contributing $300,000 and $437,500, respectively.

The project, which broke ground in August 2009 and was completed in May 2010, consists of 39,500 feet (7.48 miles) of 8-inch, 6-inch and 2-inch water line pipe, 18 fire hydrants and 175 service connections. The Kanawha Valley Water Treatment Plant, the water source for the project, has ample treatment and hydraulic capacity, with current capability of treating 50 million gallons a day (mgd) and the ability to be expanded to 80 mgd. Therefore, the plant would not need to be upgraded to support the additional connections. In addition, the plant?s source of supply is the Elk River, which is a plentiful source of raw water.

The project area is located along Prenter Road/Route 5, which runs alongside Laurel Creek and three of its tributaries, Three Fork Branch, Sandlick Creek and Hopkins Fork. Laurel Creek flows into the Big Coal River, which generally flows north to its confluence with Little Fork River.

The primary environmental impact of the construction project was identified as earth disturbance, which could cause erosion and stream sedimentation. To minimize these impacts, crews used silt fences or straw bales between construction areas and waterways, and re-established vegetation on all disturbed areas. In addition, the following measures were taken at creek or stream crossings:

  • Work was performed during low flows
  • Stream bed disturbance was restricted to the immediate area, and in-steam use of equipment was kept to a minimum
  • The amount of stream bank vegetation removed was kept to a minimum
  • ?Green? concrete was not used in stream beds
  • Shore areas disturbed were reshaped, seeded and mulched immediately upon completion
  • No in-stream work was conducted during fish spawning season (April 1 through June 30)

West Virginia American Water also worked with the state Department of Environmental Protection and Boone County to meet short-term water needs for area residents by installing a water station until the project was available.

The new Prenter water line was completed in May 2010 and is supplying approximately 175 homes (about 430 people) with high-quality, reliable drinking water. West Virginia American Water is responsible for the operations and maintenance under a long-term agreement with the Boone County Public Service District. The customer rates will be equivalent to West Virginia American Water?s statewide rates, which were approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, and no rate increase for the company?s current customers was required to serve the additional customers.

In addition to providing a safe and reliable water source to residents and recreational facilities, the water line extension can also support proposed and potential commercial, recreational and residential development in the future. While land restrictions, such as topography and the lack of a public sanitary sewer system, may continue to inhibit growth, the absence of a public water supply will no longer be a limiting factor.

The impact of the project was evident at the dedication ceremony, which was attended by more than 70 residents, as well as U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, Eddie Belcher of Gov. Joe Manchin?s office, state Sen. Ron Stollings, state Delegate Jeff Eldridge, and Boone County commissioners Al Halstead, Mickey Brown and Eddie Hendricks.

The final speaker at the event was Prenter Hollow resident Jennifer Massey, who fought hard to help bring public water service to her friends and neighbors. In her remarks, she said, ?This is a glorious day. We?ve had serious health issues in this community. But now we can pick up the pieces and move on, and not have to worry about contamination.?

This is one of many examples of the public and private sectors successfully working together to ensure high-quality, reliable water supplies for our communities. Through projects such as this, West Virginia American Water over the last two decades has proudly provided water service to more than 40,000 customers who previously had no access to public water or had been receiving substandard water service. As our nation faces enormous water and wastewater infrastructure challenges, many communities are looking to the private sector for help in making necessary upgrades and improvements. It is through these collaborations that we can successfully tackle our nation?s water infrastructure challenges, sustain our communities, and foster the continued growth of our country.

Wayne D. Morgan, President of West Virginia American Water, has more than 25 years of experience in the management, operation, planning, design and construction of water and wastewater systems.

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