RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — Around 500 Raleigh County residents were without water on Thursday morning, January 5, 2023, as the county’s water crisis neared the two-week mark.
The crisis, shows the need for multiple sources of drinking water in the county, according to Raleigh County Commission President Dave Tolliver.
The manager of the non-profit Raleigh County Public Service District told Tolliver, Raleigh County Emergency Management Services Director John Zilinski and others during a daily conference call on Thursday, January 5, 2023, that the town of Stickney would likely be the last to get water service.
Water tanks throughout the county were filling with water on Thursday, and communities were regaining service, one by one.
The county’s first responders, along with Raleigh County Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteers, distributed and delivered water, monitored water pressure at Raleigh County PSD tanks and met daily with the private Beckley Water Company, the supplier of the county’s water.
Tolliver reported Beckley Water Company is the single provider of water for public service districts in Raleigh County. He said all county public service districts, including Raleigh County PSD, buys water from the private company. Raleigh PSD, which is not operated by the Raleigh County Commission but is under the authority of county government, serves around 4,800 ratepayers and then sells water to the Town of Lester.
On December 24, 2022, multiple customers’ water lines developed leaks. Breaks in main water lines in the Beckley Water Company system forced the company to stop the flow to county tanks.
Raleigh County Schools was forced to remain closed after Christmas break.
Water tanks were filling in Raleigh PSD on Thursday morning, and officials said they are hopeful all water service will be restored by Sunday.
Beckley Water spokesman Jonathan Stanley said all Beckley Water customers have water service.
At Beckley West Apartments, which is overseen by Beckley Housing Authority, some reported they did not have water service.
Beckley Water officials said Thursday that water service is restored but individual apartments have leaks, which has left some residents with no water.
Zilinski said emergency responders were supplying Beckley West with bottled water on Thursday.
Tolliver said it is not uncommon in southern West Virginia for one water source to provide water to an entire county, but the latest water crisis proves counties should have more than one source of public water. He said he hopes the county will get federal and state funds within the year to draw water from Maple Mountain Mine to serve about a thousand families along State Route 3, via Raleigh County PSD.
“I don’t know how much money that Raleigh County or Beckley Water Company spends on infrastructure, but it looks like infrastructure work will have to be done,” he added.
Two-thirds of West Virginia counties have water delivery systems that are among the worst in the country, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) violation records, and the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council has estimated the state needs to invest at least $4 billion to repair systems across the entire state.
Zilinski reports Raleigh PSD has made expensive updates to parts of its water system, over the past several years.
Stanley reported earlier that Beckley Water Company has also invested in infrastructure recently.
Private water companies are not eligible for federal and state grants which are available to non-profit public service districts, Beckley Treasurer Billie Trump reported last week.