Standing Up for Appalachia — Holding Water in West Virginia

by Duane Nichols on January 12, 2021

Holding Water in WV: A Community Discussion on January 13, 2021

Announcement from the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC)

This is the first session of a five-part discussion series, “Standing Up for Appalachia: Dialogue for a Positive Change,” hosted by West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light. It is funded with grant support from the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

The topic of January’s event will be water access, safety, and policy in West Virginia, with a presentation and discussion of related legislation that will be in play during our upcoming legislative session.

All are welcome to tune in. Event will feature a panel and opportunity for community members to ask questions and actively participate. This program will be accessible via ZOOM on the Internet.

Date & Time: Wednesday, January 13, 2021 from 4:00 to 5:00 PM

Click this link to register.

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Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC)

PO Box 6753, Huntington, WV 25773-6753

info@ohvec.org

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West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light is a state affiliate of the national IPL network. We are a group of concerned West Virginians from various faith traditions–leaders and lay persons alike–who believe that care for Creation is a call to be heeded and acted upon. Through community programs, educational outreach, and advocacy, we promote energy conservation and other environmentally sound practices and policies that will help to preserve our beautiful state of West Virginia and our beautiful planet Earth for generations to come!

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West Virginia Rivers Coalition

3501 MacCorkle Ave. SE #129,

Charleston WV 25304.

https://wvrivers.org/

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

W.V. I. P. L. January 12, 2021 at 9:42 am

WEST VIRGINIA INTERFAITH POWER & LIGHT

2018 Energy Saver Winner – ‘Let there be light’

Blessed Sacrament Energy Saver — Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church

https://blessedsacramentwv.org/

Blessed Sacrament Church had a reduction of 82% of energy use for lighting. They were challenged in two primary ways. 1) Acceptance of change. The parish’s energy efficiency committee needed to convince the priest, finance council, and general parish membership of the need to change our light fixtures and bulbs to LED. After all, “the original lighting works just fine, doesn’t it?” 2) Cost of change. As a parish, they were able to afford the hardware needed, but not necessarily the labor cost needed for installation. The underlying question they grappled with was whether church funds should be invested in energy efficiency or whether they should be spent in other more conventional positive ways.

The key influencers learned about the cost savings to be had and how they would recoup the investment in a relatively short time (1.5 years) through energy savings. They also learned that changing over to LED bulbs and fixtures throughout our facility was not just to have “pretty lights” in the worship space. This was actually an easy “sell,” because the members of the parish are mostly aware of their responsibility to be good stewards of God gifts.

2018 Energy Saver WinnerThe second challenge – how to afford the labor costs – was met through enthusiasm and through Providence. Two of the energy efficiency committee members are electrical engineers. After studying and considering the project, they determined they were able to design and manage the project and also provide guidance to parishioner volunteers who would do all of the labor. This challenge resulted in great success by not only saving money, but by building and strengthening community amongst the volunteers, and creating buy-in from the parish at large.

Throughout the facility, over 300 fluorescent tube-light fixtures were re-worked to use LED light tubes and motion detector lights were installed in lower-use areas. As a result, not only is the quality of the lighting all around is much improved, they are now using less than 20% of the original lighting load!

https://www.coolcongregations.org/the-challenge/meet-previous-winners/2018-cool-challenge-winners/2018-energy-saver-winner/

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Connor Griffith January 12, 2021 at 10:00 am

Ground breaks on new reservoir outside Morgantown | State Journal News | wvnews.com

From an Article by Connor Griffith, The State Journal, July 20, 2018

MORGANTOWN — A project nearly 60 years in the making recently took another step toward completion with the recent groundbreaking of the dam and reservoir along Cobun Creek off Interstate 68.

Members of the Morgantown Utility Board and community signatories traveled to the site for the ritual of planting shovels in the ground and a site tour. Director Tim Ball said this was preceded by a gathering at the Erickson Alumni Center in which the structure’s official name was announced: the George B. Flegal Dam and Reservoir.

Flegal was the first engineer for the Morgantown Utility Board’s predecessor, the Morgantown Water Commission, who designed the current reservoir along the creek closer to the Monongahela River. However, he recognized the need for a larger alternate source of water and went so far as to purchase land for it in 1960.

“Recognizing his foresight and vision, we thought it appropriate to name it in his honor,” Ball said, adding that Flegal’s purchase 58 years ago only needed a few more acres added to bring it up to its current size. “It was a special day for this event.”

The project picked up steam in 2014 following the Freedom Industries chemical spill that disrupted the water supply for more than 300,000 people for a month. The older reservoir, with a capacity of 40 million gallons, would only provide the Morgantown area with three days of water should the Monongahela River become contaminated. Ball said this is due to sediment that gradually builds up in the reservoir and the larger population of Morgantown.

The George B. Flegal Dam and Reservoir will hold 370 million gallons of water when full, which is enough to supply Morgantown for 30 days. The dimensions are that of a 74 foot tall earthen dam stretching about 870 feet across the crest of the dam and will be roughly 440 feet wide.

Ball said the contractor behind the job is Kanawha Stone based out of the Charleston area, which has a track record in Monongalia County of moving earth for the West Side development off Interstate 79 and the Suncrest Towne Centre.

“We’re lucky to work with them. They are a reputable company,” Ball said, adding that all the material needed for this earthen dam is already present on site. He said Kanawha Stone’s contract gives them two years to get the dam built but it could be completed in 12-15 months depending on speed and weather conditions. After that, it’ll take about 12-18 months for the reservoir to fill up with water.

According to Morgantown Utility Board, no lights or fencing will surround the reservoir itself and the board has no plans of providing public access. However, the board will permit the Morgantown Board of Parks and Recreation to conduct and manage public access opportunities should it choose to do so.

“We’re very positive on the reservoir investment,” said Eldon Callen, with the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is the kind of infrastructure development that we need to be focusing on. We’re very much focused on doing things the correct way.”

Given the location of the reservoir itself, Callen said it’s in a position to provide water to a majority of Monongalia County. Besides the county’s West End, Callen said he can envision further growth along Grafton Road and Kingwood Pike, both of which are located close to the new reservoir.

“We need to diversify our economy with growth and influx of new people that’s been going on,” he said. “Since the last census, we’ve grown significantly. We were averaging about 6 percent in population growth during some of those years.”

The older reservoir will still be used as a backup water supply to the new reservoir. Some funds from this $48 million project were set aside to rehabilitate the old pool and clear out some of the sediment.

Ball said that Flegal actively monitored the new reservoir project when it started moving again after 2014, directly communicating with the Morgantown Utility Board via letters at times. Ball said he hoped Flegal would be able to attend the groundbreaking but the engineer passed away about four months ago at the age of 90.

However, his son, Greg, attended and said his father would’ve been proud of the accomplishment.

https://www.wvnews.com/statejournal/news/ground-breaks-on-new-reservoir-outside-morgantown/article_2b3dbdbf-e691-58dd-8ece-ff15d04d571e.html

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Emily Allen January 12, 2021 at 11:28 am

Study Finds West Virginia Counties Among ‘Worst in Nation’ For Drinking Water Violations

From West Virginia Public Broadcasting | By Emily Allen, WVPB, September 24, 2019

A new study released Tuesday by three environmental groups found more than half of West Virginia counties rank among the worst in the nation for violations of a federal law that protects the quality of drinking water in the U.S.

The report, “Watered Down Justice,” ranked 36 of the state’s 55 counties among the top third worst-offending U.S. counties.

The analysis found millions of people across the country, including 912,650 people in West Virginia, consumed water from drinking systems that were out of compliance with the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), at various points between June 1, 2016, and May 31, 2019.

According to data from the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of three organizations behind the study, 378 water systems violated the SDWA at least once in those three years. That’s out of a reported 448 West Virginian systems total, serving more than 1.5 million people.

Small, often rural, community water systems were among the top offenders, along with systems responsibly for serving communities of color and low socioeconomic conditions.

In West Virginia, where much of the state’s residents live rurally, many people depend on small community water systems.

Systems nationwide serving less than 3,300 people accounted for more than 80 percent of all SDWA violations, according to the study. Even smaller systems, serving less than 500 people, were reportedly responsible for more than 60 percent of all SDWA violations, and for 50 percent of health-based violations.

At a press conference at the Capitol in Charleston Tuesday afternoon, a series of speakers, including two state lawmakers and representatives from environmental groups, said the study not only found West Virginia counties violated the SDWA often, but also spent a lot of time not complying with the law in general. According to the report, 42 West Virginia counties are among the top third in the nation for counties who spend the most time out of compliance.

What Is The SDWA?

Three environmental groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council, Coming Clean, and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance — analyzed health-based violations of the SDWA between June 1, 2016, and May 31, 2019.

The SDWA was established in 1974. This act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate drinking water sources and to protect residents from both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants.

The EPA sets legal limits on more than 90 contaminants in drinking water, including chemical contaminants, lead and copper. These contaminants can lead to a large swath of health problems affecting a variety of ages, including cancer and impaired brain development.

When it comes to public water systems, the EPA regulates those that provide water to at least 15 service connections, or at least 25 people for at least 60 days a year.

Quality Of Life ‘Inseparable’ From Quality Of Water

Drinking water faces many threats, including those from chemicals and the improper disposal of human and animal waste.

In 2014, a chemical spill near Charleston left more than 300,000 West Virginians without drinking water for a week after a storage tank at Freedom Industries leaked more than 10,000 gallons of toxic materials into the Elk River. In 2000, dangerous levels of perfluorooctanoic acid, or C8, were discovered in water systems, coming from chemical company DuPont’s plant near Parkersburg. Earlier this year, officials discovered chemical water contaminants in Wetzel County.

“We all know West Virginia is no stranger to our water contamination,” said Pam Nixon, President of People Concerned About Chemical Safety.

Since the 2014 incident, Nixon said she has noticed signs and reactions to the “water crisis” everywhere, including grocery stores.

“People in West Virginia realize that our water is contaminated,” she said. “We’ve noticed from 2014 to now, how the section for bottled water has expanded. And when you look, there are, unfortunately, some people who really can’t afford to buy water, they don’t feel comfortable drinking it, so they’re buying bottled water. You can see it in the carts.”

Rick Martin, president of the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said the spill in 2014 was an “unforgettable experience,” and “difficult to forgive, particularly in low-income communities and our communities of color.”

According to the report, findings showed a relationship between sociodemographic characteristics at the county level, like race and income, and those counties’ drinking water violations.

“Quality of life and quality of water go hand in hand,” Martin said. “They’re inseparable.”

Martin said there will be a push next year to reintroduce House Bill 2153 and Senate Bill 573, both of which failed in 2019. These bills would create a minority health advisory team to assist local communities in developing plans to address local public health crises, like water contamination.

Democratic West Virginia Dels. Mike Pushkin and Evan Hansen also spoke at the press conference.

Pushkin, who lives on the west side of Charleston, referred to his area as “ground zero” for the 2014 spill. He said the report came as “no surprise to those of us who have lived here for a long time.”

“Charleston still has not fully recovered,” Pushkin said. “This part of the state still hasn’t fully recovered from that industrial disaster that took place in January 2014.”

He described the “amount of people who moved out of the area, some of the businesses that closed up and still haven’t come back.”

“Since then … I have seen the Legislature roll back the Aboveground Storage Tank Act that was passed as a reaction to that chemical spill. … I have seen the weakening of water quality standards every year,” he said.

Pushkin said he rejects the narrative that deregulation is needed to attract and retain businesses to West Virginia.

“This narrative that we’re being fed is a lie,” he added. “We saw businesses that shut down because of the chemical spill in 2014.”

According to the report, there were 170,959 violations of the SDWA in 24,133 community water systems across the U.S.

Almost 40 percent of the U.S. population, according to the report, consumed water from drinking systems that violated the SDWA. Researchers found 437 counties, mostly in the southwest part of the country, spent the longest average lengths of time, out of compliance, per drinking system.

>>>>> This story was updated on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019, to include additional data on violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act in West Virginia.

>>>>> Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member. Report for America is a national service program coordinated by The GroundTruth Project.The inivitiative is made possible in rural Appalachia with support from the Galloway Family Foundation.

https://www.wvpublic.org/news/2019-09-24/study-finds-west-virginia-counties-among-worst-in-nation-for-drinking-water-violations

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