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McDowell Residents Closer to Safe Water

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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. 

Work began in late June to replace the Elkhorn and Maybeurry water systems. These communities as well as Switchback are included in Phase One. 

"There’s a crumbling decaying almost nonexistent water system in the area," Elden Green Assistant Director of the McDowell County Public Service District said. "Not even all of our customers or households have a water system. Some have springs or well." 

Green says several of the systems were built, then left by coal companies.

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Credit Daniel Walker
The aging, leaky Elkhorn water tower that sits along Route 52 will soon go out of commission.

The Elkhorn Regional Water Project has been in the works for several years.  It was further delayed when the federal government halted Abandoned Mine Land funding to review the applications.

Abandoned Mine Land money comes from a fund created by a tax on coal companies. The money is used to reclaim and fix damage left from previous mining activity.

Congressman Nick Rahall says he met with officials earlier this year about the funding. Rahall attended the groundbreaking ceremony in Kimball.

"So we’ve been able to break some of these projects loose and get clean water and replace old systems in many cases so our people can have what many in the big city take for granted," Rahall said, "that's clean drinkable accessible water."

Phase One in Elkhorn is also funded by a grant and loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development.  

The project continues down Route 52 with two more phases. It’s three of several plans to bring safe water to communities throughout the county.

Green says, six years ago the McDowell PSD had about 500 customers, now he’s proud to say there are more than 3-thousand and several other projects are in the works. The Big Sandy Roderfield Extension will bring clean water to his own home.

"Personally right now I have deep well and pump," Green said,"the water’s not the greatest but we’re thankful for it."

"I have a water treatment system personally that’s salt based, and they say over the long term that’s not good but we’re thankful for what we have."

Phase one of the Elkhorn Regional Water Project will bring clean water to 200 homes. Green says the PSD plans to pay back the loan within 30 years meaning water bills could increase about $30 a month. Phase One is expected to be complete in Spring of 2015.


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