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Pine Grove Continues With Sewage Struggles

By Staff | Aug 9, 2017

Pine Grove residents’ frustrations were evident Tuesday evening at the town’s monthly council meeting.

According to some residents, it has now been 60 days without a functioning sewage system.

The town has suffered trial after trial for more than a month after a pump quit working on the its sewer system. Dominion Energy Transmission Inc. purchased a new pump for the town.

Additionally, issues at the town’s water plant have resulted in water leaks, which have resulted in the town using water from Public Service District One. Mayor Barbara King issued the “Local Water Rationing Plan,” per PSC water rule 4.14. Additionally, a boil water order has been in effect.

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, King announced that five members of Hurricane, W.Va’s Mobile Infrastructure Response Team will be working on Pine Grove’s sewer system. King said the National Guard recommended she contact Hurricane for assistance. King said the mayor of Hurricane refers to the crew as a “Dream Team.”

Additionally, King announced that Mark West has personnel assisting Pine Grove workers with “building controllers for our sewer pits and working at our water plant.”

On Friday, Aug. 4, King announced that town employees are getting several sewer pits completed and working on the water leaks. King thanked residents for their patience and prayers.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 8 town council meeting, residents were given three minutes, each, to express concerns.

All residents were not critical of the town however. Connie Nixon asked fellow residents to be understanding.

“We’ve had a flood. We’ve had high waters a few times. Give (council) a time to get stuff done. Mark West is helping, and Dominion. The Town of Pine Grove is doing what they can do. Instead of bad mouthing them and everything, do what we can do to help.”

She continued, “My husband and I have been around to see if we can help. My husband had a stroke a year ago.”

“I think it is time we stand up and work together as a town, instead of griping.”

Resident Darlene Cross said her daughter, who does not live in city limits, has been assisting with flood relief. Cross said her daughter has a garage full of items that are accessible to flood victims.

“She was going to be at the meeting, but she was going to try to get food to a family of seven that lost everything they had. She’s trying to do a lot, but she’s completely worn out.”

“Just so you know, there are people trying to help people, but I’m sure there are people that could do more,” Cross said.

Council member Richard Price said the town did have some food items, that were donated, that Cross’ daughter could give. It was also stated that the sheriff’s office planned on bringing some fans to those who were in need of those supplies.

Resident Robin Adams responded that she had asked town officials what she could do to help; however, she noted, this was the 60th day without sewage.

“I feel like I’m being put on the back-burner about my sewage. It’s been 60 days.”

Adams said a worker, from Hurricane, had told a town employee to “fire my sewage pit.” Adams said the pit was not fired, and she still has sewage coming out of the pit.

Bernadette Kirk also expressed frustration with the town.

“This problem has been going on way too long. I can’t imagine another town going this long with raw sewage where it is running, where it is going.”

“It’s frustrating everyday you have to deal with this. You know it is unsanitary. It is bad. It is just very unhealthy. It’s just been too long.”

Gigi Barker said although she understands there was an unforeseen flood, the sewage issue “is very separate.”

“When we came to a council meeting two weeks ago, we were concerned about raw sewage, and health concerns. This is raw sewage, and it stinks. I can’t have family over; I’m horrified!”

Barker continued, “More than that, is the concern of health. We’ve got to go higher, and we’ve got to work harder. I don’t know what the problem is.”

Barker said she never had previously dealt with sewage issues; however, her residence is now dealing with week three of sewage backup. “The last two days, just to flush the toilets, the water has come all the way to the top of the toilet. It didn’t overflow.”

Barker is worried she would end up with sewage on the first floor of her home.

“There is help. It’s bigger than the town’s budget, bigger than you guys… it’s an old town, and it’s nobody’s fault, but we have to have help. I don’t care if we line up and go to Charleston. We can go to Charleston if that is what it takes.”

Councilmember Cindy Figler responded that town officials have spoken with officials in Charleston.

“Then let’s go to Charleston,” Barker said.

“The National Guard was here. They had men help us. The governor’s office had somebody go back to help us, and there wasn’t anything else they could do,” Figler said.

Robert Weekley said his family was also dealing with sewage in their basement.

“I purchased a few septic pumps to try to get the sewage out of the basement. It has been backing up several times in the past several months. We’ve had to wade in raw sewage in our basement. It is destroying our pumps. We can’t afford a $600 to $800 pump. We do what we can do.”

“I’m here making phone calls and listening to (Mayor King and Recorder Rhonda Spencer) make phone calls. I’ve taken three days off to deliver water,” Councilmember Richard Price said.

“I’m just as frustrated as you guys are. That’s why I ran for office. I’ve come to the city building several times and asked if I can help.”

Town officials noted that the Department of Environmental Protection had visited the town and was “pleased with the information they were given.”

Council noted that the DEP was pleased that “the new council and new mayor has stepped up and dealt with the problems that have existed for over a year.”

Price said King and Spencer are filling paperwork out each day, mailing papers to Charleston and calling Charleston everyday.

Barker responded that if people are leaving the town office “pleased,” then “that is scary.”

King asked if the residents felt there was some sort of action that council has missed.

“To be honest, I don’t believe we’ve been informed. There isn’t enough information out there,” Barker said.

Town Attorney Gary Rymer was asked if he knew of where the town could turn to next.

“With water and sewage, you would have to talk to the governor’s office about some sort of emergency grant to at least identify the problems. We have a project going on, but it’s not going to solve these old vacuum systems.”

King said council has been told there is no grant money available for Pine Grove’s system. She expressed frustration with state and federal officials. She said these representatives say “We sympathize with you. We’ll write you a letter.”

“That’s all they do,” King said.

It was noted that Phase Two of the town’s ongoing sewer project — managed through Belomar Regional Council — is currently being worked on. This project has been funded through grant monies. King explained that because the bid for Phase Two was an “open-ended” ad, the rest of the town, not covered by Phases One and Two, could be attached to the project, if it can be funded.

King said she knows everyone is frustrated, expressing that she is too. She said she has been working from 6 a.m. to approximately 6 p.m. at night.

“I’m not at home, and Rhonda isn’t home either. We are trying to do everything we can.”

King explained that the Office of Emergency Services has been in Pine Grove, since the flood, along with FEMA, and the DEP.

“I have no control over them,” King said.

For now, King said there have been 54 controller kits rebuilt out of 145 kits. She said she spent approximately $30,000, which the town does not have, “but I thought it was the first thing we needed to do.”

However, “I’m keeping a positive attitude. It’s going to be fixed, and it’s going to be fixed right,” the mayor said.

King said she hoped to have the bulk of the work done prior to school starting.

As to the ongoing conserve order and boil order, it was reported that water is pumping into the town from PSD One. Work is in progress at the water plant, and some water is being pumped out of the town’s plant. However, the boil order cannot be removed until samples pass inspection and the state approves. The town hopes have satisfactory samples soon.

King said the water meters have been read recently, and water bills are due Aug. 20. She said town officials can tell who is using the bulk of water, who is following the conserve order and who isn’t.

One resident noted that her meter probably showed high usage due to rooms in her basement that had flood damage.

Councilmember Figler noted the bill would read usage prior to the flood.

In other council matters, council voted to quit picking up garbage, and instead, utilize Martyn’s Garbage Service. The approximate $12 will no longer show up on residents’ bills; they will instead receive a bill for $18.29 from Martyn’s.

King was unsure of when the service would begin. She said she would be contacting Martyn’s the next day.

Residents would be allowed to set out six 30-gallon bags a week. Garbage would be picked up on Mondays.

It was explained that the town lost its garbage truck in the flood. However, council discussed that the town was not making any money from its garbage service, and the town has spent thousands of dollars in repairs for the truck, over the past several years.