Board of Health Discusses Pine Grove Sewage
The Tyler/Wetzel Board of Health met last week to discuss some of the health issues taking place because of all the recent flooding. It was mentioned there has been an increase in the number of well and septic permits, which may cause them to go over budget slightly, but it was not a major concern with the board. The reason behind the increase is partly to do with all of the flooding in Tyler and Wetzel counties. There were close to 500 Tetanus shots administered altogether between Hundred and Pine Grove. Board member Larry Lemon stated, “As a board member, I would like to thank your work on that. That was a lot of time.” A motion passed accepting the financial report.
There is a training scheduled for Wednesday Sept. 27 at West Virginia Northern Community College from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The training is available for county commissioners, city officials, county/state officials, and school superintendents.
Mark Hawkins, of the Tyler-Wetzel Health Department, informed board members that his jurisdiction mainly lies with restaurants and schools, so he doesn’t have jurisdiction over city water or sewage. That would be on public service commission or water engineers. That being said, it was stated that Pine Grove is short on funding to fix many of their problems. The town has had sewage problems for years now and the new mayor will have her hand full trying to fix the issues. The sewage system is a vacuum system and is not working. One half of the city has sewage that works, but the majority of the city is having trouble. Any time it rains, sewage comes out of several manholes. Hawkins explained that when he talks o the town about an issue, officials claim that they will have the problem fixed in a matter of days, which rarely is the case. Pine Grove is currently off of a water boil order but Hawkins feels that the system is band-aided together.
Tom Cooper informed Hawkins, that if there was damage from a natural disaster, FEMA would come in and help service the town and fix several of the issues.
Hawkins mentioned that the town has two pumps, one went down in 1997 and hasn’t been repaired since. The other pump just went out this year. Mark West rebuilt a pump. Hawkins explained he feels many of the top sewer workers have left over the years, and current workers are unsure of what past workers have done or what to do to move forward. “There’s just not one problem; there’s a thousand problems and I think they just keep getting hit this summer” stated Hawkins.
When asked if there was anything to do to clean up the sewage, Hawkins stated that you can bleach everything down after the sewage has receded, but while it is still elevated, there is not much that can be done.
Hawkins informed Valley High School that it would not be able to start while being on a boil order and having non-working sewage. Swiss Valley installed a pump system in the sewage in order to get the school running. Swiss Valley informed Hawkins that after the work was completed, everything should run fine as long as nothing else broke. Hawkins went back to the school last Tuesday and noticed a manhole overflowing into the creek. When he tried to contact the school, he could not reach anyone, or get a return call. The school finally contacted Hawkins, and officials told him that the pump had been taken apart, cleaned, and put back together, and that everything is working fine again.
Hawkins reiterated that it has been 20 years of improper upkeep that is creating the problems. One board member stated, “I feel bad for the new mayor and city council officials,” for all of the potential problems they may be facing. There was some discussion about hooking into the Public Service District One but PSD One has eight-inch lines while Pine Grove has four-inch lines which would be a huge undertaking to switch over. Pine Grove has good water; the problem is that the pumps are not working to push the water through the filters. It was noted that, at one point, Pine Grove was on a two-flush per day limit.
Hawkins said Pine Grove probably needs to contact the Public Service Commission. The DEP had previously fined the town $130,000, under the old mayor, but Hawkins stated that fining the town won’t solve anything, because Pine Grove needs the money for repairs. Board member Larry Lemon stated that the Wetzel County Commissioners had donated funds, toward a winch, for the town of Pine Grove, but he agrees that there is some conflicting information, and as a commissioner, he would like to be clear on what the problems are – and that there is a specific plan in place for these repairs – before the commissioners would donate county money. Lemon suggested that perhaps Pine Grove reach out to the Public Service Commission, which is a state run organization. Board member Eric Peters suggested that Pine Grove also contact their regional planning development council (Bel-o-mar), because as a municipality, they pay dues to that organization and it is federally mandated.
It was also noted that Pine Grove’s garbage truck got flooded during the recent flood, and so they are no longer able to remove garbage; they have hired out a company to come in and remove the garbage.
It was mentioned that West Virginia Senator Charles Clements (R), United States Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.), and Delegate Dave Pethel (D) were a few of the people that have visited Pine Grove to see what the conditions were like, so that they could help in any way. In fact, Dave Pethel received much praise for the work and contributions that he has given to Wetzel County. “It seems like such an injustice that one of the richest counties in the state contains some of the poorest cities,” commented board member Tom Cooper. He reiterated that if the town could tie some of the damages to a natural disaster, FEMA would come in and fix some of the problems. Hawkins reiterated that the Health Department basically has jurisdiction over schools and restaurants and so many of these issues are out of his hands.
Also, there were approximately 10 water tests performed around Pine Grove and Hundred. They were available for free for a two-week period. After that period, each test will $20; however, no one has received a bill yet. Hawkins has been labeling each test as flood, with hopes that the state will waive the fees.
The next Tyler/Wetzel Board of Health meeting is scheduled for November 14, 2017 at 1 p.m., located at the Board of Health building in Paden City.