RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — Raleigh County officials met to discuss how to prevent future crises like the Water Crisis in January 2023 from happening again.

A series of line breaks and leaks led to a two-week water crisis in Raleigh County, starting Christmas night 2022, and leaving three-quarters of those in the county would be without water or with limited service, according to statements made during a post-crisis meeting at the Raleigh County Emergency Operations Center on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.

Raleigh County Emergency Management Services Director John Zilinsky and elected officials met with Beckley Water and public service district managers to review the crisis.

Jonathan Stanley of Beckley Water Company said water in the private company’s tanks was slightly low on December 24, 2022, which could have been caused by ratepayers who left faucets running during frigid temperatures, to prevent frozen pipes. But by Christmas night, Stanley said, he realized there was a problem.

Zilinsky said his office also became aware of a problem on the night of December 25, 2022, when Beckley Fire Department notified EOC workers that Hager Street Apartments in city limits had no water. The non-profit Raleigh County Public Service District, which purchases water from Beckley Water Company, began to show reduced water pressure, according to statements made during the meeting.

By that time, officials said, households in Sophia had been without water for approximately three days.

By December 29, Raleigh PSD had no water.

Within days, Zilinsky had set up daily meetings to help communication among agencies and the government.

Zilinsky and other county officials said a notification system could help improve the emergency response, in the event of a future crisis.

“When Beckley Water has a major break… they could inform all public service district customers, at one time, and say, ‘Hey, we have a major leak,’” said Raleigh County Commission President Dave Tolliver.

Zilinsky said EOC oversaw water distribution and set up delivery in the county to affected areas. Raleigh PSD has a reduced workforce, but manager Shane Bragg said work crews began the task of repairing lines and restoring lines, working during holidays to help restore water.

Raleigh 911 Center oversaw water distribution and delivery in affected areas. Pepsi, Food Lion and Little General are among the retailers who donated pallets of water.

Raleigh County Schools canceled classes to give water tanks time to fill, based on reports from water companies, Raleigh Schools Superintendent David Price said. He added most schools had water service.

First responders reported after the meeting that schools outside of city limits do not have an alarm to alert EOC if there’s a water break. During a school vacation, officials said, a major water leak inside of a school could cause water loss.

“That may be something the Board of Education wants to look at and make sure all the schools are tied in, or {have} some type of notification, if a sprinkler system goes off,” Tolliver said.

Price said there have been leaks at two schools, including a leak at Shady Spring Middle School on Christmas Eve, when a number of school employees were out of town. Price said both leaks were addressed as quickly as possible. Price said Raleigh County Board of Education would likely be open to adding alarms if funding is available.

Tolliver said the meeting was positive and that none of the agencies cast blame on others. He said the purpose of the meeting is to improve response to emergencies.