PSD receives negative response from DEP, PSC
The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and Public Service Commission issued a negative review of the Pocahontas Public Service District's facility plan, citing more than 60 deficiencies and instances of non-compliance.
"Despite numerous conversations, a meeting with DEP staff, and the issuance of a clear set of requirements from the PSC, it seems that the District does not fully appreciate the requirements of the facility planning process," wrote Katrhyn Emery, of the DEP's Clean Water State Revolving Fund, to PSD chairman Tom Shipley, in a letter dated December 21.
In a PSC Staff memorandum dated December 22, PSC staff attorney John Auville calls for the resignation or removal of PSD board member David Litsey for allegedly steering the project toward his own economic gain and pursuing a plan that would violate the PSC's May 2010 order concerning the project.
"It is becoming apparent that Mr. Litsey's pecuniary interests are his main concern as he continues to try and steer the process to a plant at Silver Creek," wrote Auville.
Auville's PSC memorandum suggests Litsey has been acting independently to develop his own plan that is not supported by the engineering and economic analysis that has been completed.
The DEP's letter to Shipley cites all manner of deficiencies in the PSD facilties plan itself, from licensing issues to failure to submit correct paperwork and in some instances, failure to submit paperwork at all.
These range from simple, such as the plan missing a stamp from a licensed WV professional engineer, to more complicated errors, such as failing to provide a list of projected funding sources or calculations of user rates.
This latter issue was recently brought to the board's attention by area resident Bruce Wessel at the special PSD work session held December 17, when he requested estimated rate payer costs for the alternatives presented by the district.
The DEP letter goes on to note that if any developments in the proposed service area do not want public sewer service, the PSD must "[p]rovide documentation substantiating that Slatyfork Farms and Slaty Ridge do not want service. If it is a homeowners association, provide minutes showing the vote by the members of the associations."
The DEP adds that the PSD must still evaluate the condition of wastewater treatment systems in these developments and "indicate whether all homes have adequate wastewater treatment."
The DEP letter also cites math errors and inconsistencies in purchase and installation costs. It goes on to state that only one treatment option was evaluated for each waste water treatment plant, contrary to the PSC Facilities Plans Checklist that requires a cost-effective evaluation of more than one alternative.
The agency flatly rejected the PSD's strategic add-on options to the Old Spruce and Northwoods subdivisions.
"Extending a sewer system to undeveloped properties like the Old Spruce and Northwoods subdivisions is not an eligible SRF expense and should not be considered as a project cost or an acceptable use of project funds," Emery wrote.
Geological testing was performed at the proposed Curtis property site but not at the Inn at Snowshoe, raising DEP concerns about whether "the same level of analysis [has] been performed on this site and its impacts on the karst..."
Jonathan Fowler, of the engineering division of the PSC, wrote in a December 22 technical review that "the approach now being developed by the District and their engineer may ultimately provide an acceptable and cost-effective means of providing sewer service to the Complainants." But he adds, "the plan is presently inadequate and insufficient on many levels."
The plan does not meet the requirements of either the May 2010 Order of the Commission or the requirements of the DEP, according to Fowler's review.
"This case in one form or another has been pending before this commission for the better part of a decade," states Auville's memorandum. "For the majority of that time, the District's facilities have been polluting and citizens of Pocahontas County that want and need sewer service have been denied that opportunity."
"Based upon the plan that was filed with the Commission and the DEP it appears those involved with the District do not understand the gravity of the current situation," he continues. "This District and the Board members themselves face serious civil and criminal penalties. With the poor effort made by the District to meet the requirements of DEP in submitting this alternative plan, I think the DEP may now aggressively pursue all potential avenues of relief including daily fines against the District."
"Further, because these particular Board members killed the certificated project that would be close to completion by now and would have resolved the environmental problems, I think the DEP may also pursue those fines against both the District and the Board members individually," Auville adds. "The Commission gave the District six months, which is plenty of time, to develop a solid plan to move forward with a multi-plant regional sewer system. What the Commission got instead was a lot of underdeveloped or partially developed ideas and a six month delay in the implementation of a regional sewer facility."
Auville, said Tuesday that all parties involved will have 10 days to respond to the memorandum issued by his office. The memorandum is only a suggestion to the appointed members of the Public Service Commission, he said.
"They may accept some of my recommendations, they may reject all of them," Auville said. "You have 10 days to respond to a staff memorandum. After that, its up to the commissioners."
Litsey said he was unable to comment on the review because he had not yet seen it as of December 27, but he added the board may hold a special session to address these most recent filings from the PSC and DEP .
"The board may have to set up a special meeting to discuss it," said Litsey.