Residents react to PSD draft plan
As the decade-old question of how to handle wastewater at Snowshoe Mountain Resort and in the valley below lingers, a draft plan unveiled last week by Waste Water Management, Inc., President David Rigby is drawing both high praise and high criticism from those who will be affected by the outcome.
At the Pocahontas County Public Service District's September 27 meeting, Linwood area resident Russell Holt made known to the PSD board his displeasure with the WWMI draft plan. Holt read and submitted a two-page statement railing against the proposed location of the wastewater treatment plant for valley residents.
The site, referred to as the David Curtis property by WMMI, is a two-acre plot near the junction of U.S. Route 219 and State Route 66.
"Why is a two-acre site square in the middle of the entrance to this resort community even being considered?" Holt asked the PSD.
Holt, noted that previous critics of the PSD complained that other proposed sites were too visible to motorists driving to the resort, posed threats to aquatic life both on and below the surface of the Elk River headwaters, or were too close to historic sites. The current proposed site, Holt contends, has all three strikes against it.
Speaking by phone after the meeting, Tom Shipley, PSD board president, noted that the plan is still in the draft stages and will likely see some changes before the PSD's November 10 deadline to submit the plan to state agencies.
With regard to the health of the Elk River, Tollie Peuleche, of the Elk River Headwaters Watershed Association, declined to comment on the draft, but added that the group is interested in the outcome of the work being done by the PSD and WWMI.
Resort homeowner Donnelle Oxley made no secret of her thoughts on the plan.
"I have complete faith in Dave Rigby to meet the demands of the [Public Service Commission]--what they said had to be done to get approval for the plan--and I have complete faith that he has done that and will do it," said Oxley. "I think he's come up with a good plan."
Oxley said she's not surprised to hear Holt's objection to the proposed plant's location. Holt's own statement acknowledges that the Curtis property is 300 feet from his own.
"I think the main bone of contention will be the location of the plant in the valley," she said.
George Phillips, of 8 Rivers Safe Development is also concerned about the location of the plant.
"There are still many unknowns associated with the Curtis property," said Phillips. "Are there voids? Where does the underground water flow? What might be the impact on the Big Spring [Fork of the Elk River]?"
"There are several known caves and springs on or near the Curtis property," Phillips added. "An underground stream has been dye-traced from the Dry Branch Valley, near Mace, to the Big Spring located at Route 66 and 219 intersection. This confirms there is some significant flow conduit under the valley above the Curtis property. It will be very important for the project and [Department of Environmental Protection] to understand and assess how the plant located on this property might impact that underground flow and the spring."
Phillips said 8 Rivers would like to see a geotechnical survey of the Curtis site, as well as a full review by the DEP.
Location notwithstanding, Phillips said the WWMI draft plan addresses the major concerns 8 Rivers had about the previous plan from Thrasher Engineering. That plan called for a centralized plant in the lower Big Spring Fork valley and piping all sewage from the mountain-top resort to the valley.
"The Rigby Plan eliminates the pipeline and sewage coming off the mountain," Phillips said. "With the Rigby Plan Snowshoe/Silver Creek sewage would be treated on the mountain-which saves the significant cost of a very steep pipeline."
Phillips noted that the only sewage being collected in the geologically sensitive area would be in the Linwood area and, potentially, the Big Spring Fork valley.
"Much less sewage flow is involved with the smaller plant at the base of the mountain, so a failure would have less significant consequence or could be more easily managed," he said.
Pocahontas County Commission President David Fleming, who attended the September 26 public presentation of the WWMI draft plan, said the plan also addressed his concerns from the previous plan presented by Thrasher Engineering.
"It is a sensible blend of old locations and assets with new infrastructure," Fleming said. " It eliminates the risky raw sewage pipeline. And it demonstrates the cost-effectiveness of a decentralized approach."
Fleming said the savings stated by Rigby over the Thrasher plan would likely result in a fairer monthly bill for ratepayers and more favorable terms for paying back loans for the project.
Fleming said his remaining concern was the DEP's request that the project encompass properties along U.S. Route 219 south of its junction with WV 66.
"I think we should be careful not to overreach by extending this, say, down 219 when those residential areas have made it clear they have no intention of signing on," said Fleming. "We should not try to add on everything simply because it is still cheaper than the original plan. So I would encourage the PSD to focus on the customers present and future that are requesting service to keep costs down."
Additional requests for comment from Snowshoe Mountain Resort and the Snowshoe Property Owners Council were not returned by deadline Tuesday.
During its September meeting, the PSD voted to pursue core drillings on the Curtis property and on property belonging to Harvey Galford behind the Inn at Snowshoe to determine the subsurface stability of both sites. The vote was split 2-1, with 'yes' votes from Shipley and David Litsey. Amon Tracy voted in opposition.
In other business last Tuesday the PSD:
- Approved budgets for water and sewer operations for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012.
- Asked PSD attorney Chris Nagley to investigate whether a right-of-way for the Snowshoe Treatment Plant Road passes over a lot owned by West Fork Cottage.
- Asked Nagley to review state law concerning whether public employee salaries are public information. The request followed a complaint by PSD Sewer Manager Lloyd Coleman that a PSD board member disclosed the salary of an employee during a recent meeting.