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The folks in a Wyoming County community were dealing with unpotable water months before the chemical spill in Charleston.
About 170 customers, around 500 people, have been on a boil water advisory since September.
This past weekend an apparent power outage caused the pump to stop working at the Alpoca Water Works facility. The Mullens Opportunity Center is offering a place for folks to shower as needed. Reports indicate the water has since cleared up to the eye, but residents remain on a boil water advisory.
It appears that the need for clean water in this region won’t go away anytime soon.
The Alpoca Water Works system is old, and outdated. Alpoca is a small locally owned company with limited resources.
The owners are working to close the sale of the company and turn it over to the Eastern Wyoming County PSD, but apparently it’s not a simple sale.
The water tank sits on property owned by NASCAR driver Greg Biffle. Greg’s brother Jeff Biffle says they were not aware that the tank was on their property.
Wyoming County court officials haven’t been able to locate documents indicating Alpoca Water Works had ever leased the land, although the tank has been there for decades.
In a phone conversation, Jeff Biffle told West Virginia Public Broadcasting that they paid $30,000 in attorney’s fees to ensure they were taking care of their responsibilities.
What’s being done to fix the water?
The Logan Public Service District has worked to fix the filter, installed three flush valves, and other things to improve the quality.
The long-term fix, known as the Covel project, will bring a new water main to serve the Bud/Alpoca area. The project has nearly a $5.7 million price tag, all of which – except for $125,000 – is Abandoned Mine Land funding.
The money comes from a tax coal companies pay that’s meant to help resolve public safety issues such as hazardous highwalls, or damaged water resulting from mining before 1977.
“We are literally a year away before that extension comes,” Sen. Mike Green said during an interview on The Legislature Today. “So our main focus now it to find a temporary water source.”
“After that we’ll look at any type of legislation or remedy … at this point we don’t have an answer for the residents of Wyoming County,” he added.
State Senators Green and Daniel Hall say they’ve reached out to several state agencies to find a fast solution like getting help from the National Guard, state Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Resources.
“I’m a little disappointed in our Department of Health and Human Resources,” Green said. “Their position is that they’ve tested the water they’ve issued a boil water advisory and at that point they question whether or not they have any responsibility in that. I think they do.”
Green said he’s expecting an order from the state Public Service Commission that would help to remedy the situation soon.
For now, the boil water advisory continues. On Wednesday, the second donation arrived from the nonprofit organization called the Good People Fund, based in New Jersey.
Principal of Herndon Consolidated Virginia Lusk says other donations have arrived from a sorority and fraternity based at Marshall University, the UPS Foundation, and groups from North Carolina, Michigan and more.
“People from Wyoming County are very resilient and very tough and we’re taking care of ourselves,” Senator Daniel Hall said. “But it does make the community feel very good that people from outside care enough to try and send help. We are very grateful for that.”
Lusk said the school will continue and distribute the water from Herndon Consolidated School.