Marlinton to consider phosphorus appeal
Marlinton council will consider action to avoid potentially costly upgrades to its sewage treatment plant. The council discussed the issue at its regular meeting on August 11.
The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) imposed stricter limits for phosphorus discharge into theﾠ Greenbrier River this year. The DEP found a correlation between phosphorus levels in the water and severe algae blooms, which it says detracts from recreational use of the river. The algae blooms are most severe in areas downriver of Caldwell.
In order to meet the stricter phosphorus limits, municipalities and other permit holders face potentially expensive upgrades to their sewage treatment systems.
Hillsboro and White Sulphur Springs joined forces and waged a successful appeal to the West Virginia Environmental Quality Board (EQB), which issued a final order on July 15. The order stated that DEP had not used sound science to establish the phosphorus limits and had failed to set a clear standard for algal growth. The order noted as a conclusion of fact that there are other means available than phosphorus removal to control algal growth.
The EQB remanded the towns' permits to the DEP for revision or removal of the phosphorus standard.
Marlinton will consider whether to hire the same legal firm, Steptoe and Johnson, that representedﾠ Hillsboro, to remove the phosphorus limits from their water discharge permit.
Mayor Dennis Driscoll told council he met with Steptoe and Johnson attorneys during the previous weekend.
"This is the forcing of all of us here on the Greenbrier to meet unattainable goals over a five-year and then a 20-year period," he said. "Those communities that were represented by Steptoe and Johnson have now been told, 'okay, we're taking this out of your permit.'"
The mayor also spoke with Potesta Engineering, which was hired to design an upgrade to the sewage treatment plant to meet the new phosphorus limts.
"I talked to Potesta, our engineers, and their recommendation was for me to go to this meeting and discuss with Steptoe and Johnson what we should do, as a community, to have this removed from our permit because, if we don't, we're still going to have to spend anywhere from a million on up to meet something that is unattainable."
The mayor called for a special meeting on August 18, 7 p.m. at the municipal building for the council to decide whether to retain the law firm and request a revision to the town's water discharge permit.
Council heard an update from county coordinator Jay Miller on the status of university classes in Marlinton. Miller said the lack of local college training impacted county economic development.
"Everyone in this county that has a college degree got it somewhere else and came here," he said. "Anyone in this county who wants a college degree has to go outside the county to get it and then the question is whether they stay away or come back. This really is a key issue in the economic development and the long-term economic welfare of this county."
The coordinator said the county commission had exchanged letters with New River Community and Technical College and discussed the concept of classes provided over an interactive video network (IVN) at a Marlinton location.
"What has evolved is this idea of a one-room university and the place where it would be is the second floor of the City National Bank," he said.
Miller said New River had agreed to the concept and would set up the interactive network, with the prospect of expanding it even further.
"New River will be the technical support for this and they said they want to take advantage of IVN classes at Concord, Mountain State and Bluefield," he said. "Three of those schools are in Beckley, which is where their technical and administrative hub is. So, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds. There are consortium arrangements between those schools now, so it's possible to provide college to county residents, here in Marlinton, and our target date for a demonstration project is next fall."
Councilmembers Robin Mutscheller and Loretta Malcomb expressed their support and told Miller to come to council with any future requests for project support.
W.D. Smith, executive director of Region IV Planning and Development Council, told council that it had $56,000 left over in economic stimulus funds from the recently completed sewage plant / stormwater drainage project.
Smith said that $49,532 of the money had been used to purchase a Ford F-350 work truck with crane, in accordance with the council's request. The remainder will be used to purchase wastewater system equipment, according to Smith.
Council unanimously approved the final drawdown payment on the project in the following amounts: $13,650.91 to Kanawha Stone for construction; $5,000 to Hannah Engineering for design work; $49,532 to Stephens Auto Center in Charleston for the truck and $20,500 to Region IV for fund administration.
In other business, council:
- unanimously approved a six-month extension of a contract with the West Virginia State Police for law enforcement in the town.
- unanimously approved any action necessary to remove a dilapidated trailer from the end of Tenth Avenue near Knapps Creek, after notification of the owner.
- transferred a deed to the Department of Highways for a right-of-way over the expanded roadway across from Mitchell Chevrolet for $1,000.
- unanimously approved construction of a six-foot privacy fence behind the town garage, along the Greenbrier River Trail, at an estimated cost of $1,000.
- conducted the second reading of the updated trailer ordinance and unanimously approved the ordinance.
The next regular Marlinton council meeting is scheduled for September 8, 7 p.m. at the municipal building.