WV Public Broadcasting Staff
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Wed January 15, 2014
Wyoming Co. School Deals with Unusable Water
While hundreds of thousands of West Virginians are going on five days without water, a school in Wyoming County has not had usable water since September.
The flushing process is underway but without an upgraded system, Herndon Consolidated and those on the Alpoca Water Works lines will have to wait even longer for usable tap water.
"It’s awful because I mean the water is brown and no one wants to wash their hands in brown water," fifth grader Martina Sizemore said.
Rather than the water system owner, a PSD is working to fix the problem. It's complicated and involves two public service districts, a small company, and a NASCAR driver.
Alpoca Water Works is a small company that supplies the water to the school and other communities such as Alpoca, and Bud. In a message, owner Rhesa Shrewsbury admitted that the water is bad but said that it’s only been bad for a couple months. Shrewsbury says it’s because the company no longer employs, or "lost" the water operator.
William Baisden with the Logan County PSD says his district is working "in good faith" to fix the water the old and dated system. Logan has assisted Wyoming County with water problems since a devastating flood in 2001 nearly destroyed the region.
Logan PSD is acting on behalf of the Eastern Wyoming PSD.
Shrewsbury says her family is in the process of selling the company. But Baisden says it’s not a simple sell and the parties are trying to work out “ownership issues”. He says Alpoca Water Works leased the land from coal companies until the property was purchased by Nascar driver Greg Biffle.
Biffle didn’t immediately return our request for comment.
In the meantime, teachers have tried to create a non-disruptive learning environment by always having bottled water and hand sanitizer in the classroom.
Principal Virginia Lusk is hoping the issue is resolved soon.
"The staff here works so hard and everybody has just made it go as smooth as they can to make this work and to keep the kids safety and the sanitary conditions for the kids," she said.
Okey Mills has taught at the school for more than 15 years.
"I’m surprised that many of their parents and people in the community haven’t complained more," he said.
The flushing process is underway but Logan PSD says it could still take weeks to completely flush the system. There are no hydrants in the district which can be used to drain systems.
So for now, and since September, each faucet is running and toilets are flushed often in an effort to reach usable water.