WV Water

Dave Foster / West Virginia Rural Water Association

It’s been happening for years - water systems are slowly coming to a breaking point. The next episode of Inside Appalachia explores one legacy of the coal mining industry - crumbling water infrastructure.

Jessica Lilly

A jury has ruled in favor of a coal company in Wyoming County Circuit Court. The verdict came in Thursday afternoon after only a few hours of deliberations.

Water Outages and Advisories Continue in W.Va. Coalfields

While the chemical spill in Charleston left more than 300,000 without usable water, it's a problem that folks in the coalfields deal with on a regular basis.

Last week, we heard stories of the water smelling of licorice, emptied shelves once stocked with bottled water, and other quests for clean water.  The water crisis in West Virginia's capital city lasted just a few weeks, but folks in the coalfields continue to deal with boil water advisories and outages.

Mountainous regions like southern West Virginia have an abundance of water, but the terrain along with aging infrastructure have been creating access issues for decades. Many of the current water systems in place today in the coalfields were installed in the early 1900's by coal companies. Coal operators, jobs, and most people left the area, leaving remnants of a once bustling economy including some beautiful buildings, coal tipples, and water systems. 

For some communities a boil water advisory is a way of life, like in Keystone, West Virginia, in McDowell County, where residents have been on an advisory since 2010. The town's neighboring sister city, Northfork, has been on a boil water advisory since 2013.

US Department of Agriculture

For all of the concerns about water compromised by natural and industrial sources (and the cancer, decay, infection, and disease that can come with that contamination), director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, Paul Ziemkiewicz said the biggest threat in water supplies in southern West Virginia (and many areas in the state) by a long shot is raw sewage.


Jessical Lilly / WVPublic

In an ongoing look at water infrastructure challenges in the southern region of West Virginia, we consider possible health effects of long-term exposure to contaminated water sources. First: the health impacts of industrial contamination, as well as naturally occurring pollutants.

Jessica Lilly

While the chemical spill in Charleston left 300-thousand people without access to clean water, folks in the coalfields deal with water issues every day.  We heard from folks in McDowell communities living off dated water systems that frequently go without water. Some communities have been on boil water advisories for years.

Daniel Walker

While the chemical spill in Charleston left more than 300,000 without usable water, it's a problem that folks in the coalfields deal with on a regular basis.

Mountainous regions like southern West Virginia have an abundance of water, but the terrain along with aging infrastructure create challenges, just as it has for decades.

A ceremony celebrating the effort to ensure quality drinking water for a community in Southern West Virginia was hosted on Tuesday.

The ceremony marked a milestone for the Bud/Alpoca Water System Upgrade Project. The upgrade ensures that an estimated 170 residential and commercial customers in the communities of Bud and Alpoca, in Wyoming County will have safe drinking water.

Capital punishment is debated in Kentucky.

Coal camp communities are working to cope with dated water systems created by coal companies.

A farmer’s market is provides summer meals to children. 

Questioning Capital Punishment in Kentucky:  Mirroring a national trend, the debate over capital punishment continues to makes headlines in Kentucky. Earlier this month, the state legislature held the first public hearing testimony on the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1976. As Kentucky Public Radio’s Jonathan Meador found that arguments for and against a bipartisan legislative effort to abolish capital punishment boil down to, in part, a moral quandary over vengeance versus forgiveness.

Daniel Walker

Residents in several McDowell County communities are one step closer to safe, public water. The Elkhorn Regional Water Project will replace two water systems that date back about 70 or 80 years. 


Nikthestoned / wikimedia Commons

After months without access to safe water, representatives with the Department of Health and Human Resources say the boil water advisory has been lifted in a Wyoming County community.

Folks in Alpoca/Bud including Herndon Consolidated School have been on a boil water advisory since September 2013 with water running a dark brown at times. The boil water advisory was issued because of the color and because the system did not have a certified water operator.

Jessica Lilly

Northfork has been on a boil water advisory since July 2013, even longer than the folks in neighboring Wyoming County in Bud/Alpoca. It’s the seventh boil water advisory since 2009. Some residents in higher elevations have gone more than five weeks without water in their homes.

Jessica Lilly

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin lifted the state of emergency for nine counties on Friday. It’s been about seven weeks since 300,000 customers lost access to clean water after a chemical leaked into the Elk; a river upstream from the intake to West Virginia American Water’s treatment plant.

Three Senate Bills and Where the House Stands

Feb 28, 2014
Aaron Payne

Senate Bill 373: The Water Protection Bill

The House has had S.B. 373 for nearly a month and Thursday, a bipartisan group of delegates sent a letter to Governor Tomblin requesting a special session with the sole focus on this bill.

One senate leader was not pleased with the request. Senate Majority Leader John Unger said he and his colleagues would refuse an extended session because he feels the House has had the bill long enough.

Jessica Lilly

The West Virginia Public Service Commission is just days away from issuing a final order that is expected to bring some folks in Wyoming County closer to clean water. Folks in Alpoca and Bud including Herndon Consolidated School have been on a boil water advisory since September with water running a dark brown at times.

Part of the holdup has been a business deal with the current owners and the Eastern Wyoming County Public Service District.  Public Service Commission orders issued this week are helping to move the sale along.

Water donations from across the country have poured into Wyoming County since our original report.  The folks in Bud and Alpoca were dealing with unpotable water, running a dark brown at times, months before the chemical spill in Charleston.

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.

Congressman Nick Joe Rahall is looking into the water situation in Alpoca/Bud in Wyoming County.

The long-term fix, known as the Covel project, will bring a new transmission main to serve the Bud/Alpoca area. The Eastern Wyoming Public Service District (PSD), in partnership with the Wyoming County Commission, has taken steps to repair the existing water system.

The Covel project has nearly a $5.7 million price tag, all of which – except for $125,000 – is Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funding.

Jessica Lilly

Water donations from across the country are finding their way to West Virginia … still. But the Charleston area is not the only place where residents don’t feel safe to use the tap water. Residents in a community in Wyoming County have been purchasing drinking water since September.

Herndon Consolidated and residents in the surrounding communities have been buying their water for about five months. The community has been on a boil water advisory while ‘ownership issues’ are resolved and the aging water system is worked on.

A community going on five months without clean water received another donation Thursday. This time, from a group based in New Jersey.

Earlier this month, we shared a story about the community of Bud and Alpoca along with an elementary school that have been without clean water since September.

Since then, Principal Virginia Lusk says she has received several phone calls and emails from people saying they want to help.

Leigh Hall

A  truckload of water was delivered to a school in Wyoming County Monday morning. The school and several communities served by Alpoca Water Works have been without usable water for almost five months.

Last week, we brought you the story about Herndon Consolidated and the surrounding communities.

Jessica Lilly

While hundreds of thousands of West Virginians are going on five days without water, a school in Wyoming County has not had usable water since September.

The flushing process is underway but without an upgraded system, Herndon Consolidated and those on the Alpoca Water Works lines will have to wait even longer for usable tap water.  

"It’s awful because I mean the water is brown and no one wants to wash their hands in brown water," fifth grader Martina Sizemore said.

Nikthestoned / wikimedia Commons

The West Virginia Poison Center says calls have not increased since the ban on water use in nine counties affected by Thursday’s chemical leak was lifted in some of those areas.  The majority of residents and businesses affected by the chemical leak remain without clean tap water.

On Monday afternoon, West Virginia American Water began the process of lifting bans on water usage for thousands of West Virginians.

Chemical Leak Impedes W. Va. Legislature

Jan 13, 2014
Aaron Payne

Entering the first full week of the second session of the 81st West Virginia Legislature, the normal process has been slowed by a coal cleaning chemical leaking into the water supply of over 300,000 West Virginians. While some work was done today, most of the legislatures’ efforts were toward the safety of the citizens.

The House of Delegates had only 43 members in attendance for its floor session on Monday, which did not allow for a quorum. The House was adjourned until 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Many committee meetings were rescheduled as well.