NEW CUMBERLAND - Residents of central Hancock County can look forward to better-tasting water and whiter whites when a water improvement project is completed this time next year.
Groundbreaking for the long-anticipated project of the Oakland Public Service District (PSD) is tentatively scheduled for June 28 at the water filtration plant on Hardins Run Road.
"People should see a noticeable improvement in the taste, odor, appearance and functionality of the water," said Gregory Scott, senior project manager for Buchart Horn Inc., a Pittsburgh engineering firm.
For years, Oakland PSD customers have complained about discolored water, odor problems, stained laundry and stained plumbing fixtures. The root of the problem has been elevated levels of iron and manganese in the water.
Currently, that water, drawn from five wells in the area, is treated with a chemical agent that controls, but does not remove, the iron and manganese, Scott said. Iron and manganese are known as secondary contaminants, which means they don't pose any direct health risks to humans, except in very high concentrations, he said.
A new filtration system that will be the heart of the $5 million improvement project will remove the iron and manganese entirely, Scott said.
"It's a pretty simple process, but it's the first time the high-rate pressure filter system is being used in West Virginia," Scott said. "Think of it as a giant sieve where the water slowly percolates through."
The filtration system will be housed in a new 35-by-40-foot plant to be built next to the current plant on Hardins Run Road. Customers can expect the new system to be operational by next spring, even though a lot of the work will be done by the end of this year, Scott said.
"We want people to know that we're finally making progress," said Cindy Jones, Oakland PSD chairwoman. "It's a good project."
The Oakland PSD has been looking at water treatment alternatives for at least 10 years, but funding for the project did not materialize until recently. The district received a $3 million loan from the West Virginia Water Development Authority, as well as a $1.3 million "forgivable" loan from the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health's
Drinking Water Treatment Revolving Loan Fund.
Other funding has come from the Hancock County commissioners ($230,000), the Bureau for Public Health ($192,000), and the Oakland PSD ($100,000).
The project will be paid for by increased water rates, but officials were unable to say how that will be reflected on customers' monthly water bills. The Oakland PSD currently treats and distributes water to 850 customers in central Hancock County, but 81 new customers are expected to be added once the project is complete, Scott said.
"I think they're seeing this as: The water need to be treated. And they seem to be willing to accept the costs for the improvements," Scott said.
In addition to the new treatment plant, the project will involve the construction of 31,000 feet of new water line, the construction of a new water tank, and the painting of the two existing tanks, Scott said.
Construction on the new water line is expected to start on July 9. The line eventually will include all of Tope Road, all of Chapman Road, Kit Drive, Daniel Drive, Lowes Drive, and portions of Cameron Hollow Road.
Construction of a new tank on Chapman Road will begin in August. The tank on Wylie Ridge Road will be painted once the Chapman Road Tank is on line, Scott said.
There should be no interruption in water service to current customers during construction, although customers may experience a decrease in water pressure for a time, Scott said.
Work on the new water line and the new plant is expected to be done by November. Interior and exterior painting of the water tanks may not be done until next spring because of weather restrictions, Scott said.
"I think we're going to turn out a very good product that will service the community for a long time," said Lawrence Manypenny, Oakland PSD secretary.