|By David Hedges, Publisher|
Times Record-Roane County Reporter
The largest customer of Mt. Zion Public Service District has taken on
an added expense after a boil water advisory was issued-that impacts
everyone on the system.
Customers are advised that water
used for drinking, cooking, bathing
and brushing teeth should be
brought to a rolling boil for at least
one minute, and allowed to cool, before
The advisory was issued Thursday
by the W.Va. Bureau of Public
Health, Office of Environmental
Services, after the licensed water
operator supervising the system resigned.
We have no assurance that the public's health is being protected,"
David Cobb, an engineer for the Bureau of Public Health said.
The PSD buys all its water from
the town of Grantsville, which does
have licensed operators.
"There's nothing wrong with the
water," Mt. Zion PSD chairman Sharon
Postalwait said. "It's just that we
don't have a certified operator."
Two of the three schools In Calhoun
County - Arnoldsburg Elementary
and Calhoun Middle High
School - both rely on the Mt. Zion
PSD for their water.
As long as the advisory is in effect,
students can't drink the water.
"We are buying drinking water,"
Donnie Pitts, Director of Support
Services for Calhoun schools, said.
Pitts said Broughton's is supplying
6-1/2 oz. bottles for drinking water,
with gallon jugs purchased for use in
the two school kitchens.
"We have no idea how long this
is going to go on," Pitts said. "It's
costing us between $200 and $300
The Mt. Zion PSD has been struggling for years, but recently managed to complete a long-awaited
extension that includes 21 miles of
water lines and some 200 additional
The PSD has been cited for 44
violations in the past three years, according
to the W.Va. Public Service
Commission that oversees utility
systems in the state.
Past violations have included failing
to submit required water samples,
not distributing public notices to
customers and not having adequate
backup pumps or a cross connection
control system, as well as a lack of
The system has also suffered from
excessive unaccounted for water
loss, with about 40 percent of the
water unaccounted for, presumably
due to leaks.
The Mt. Zion PSD's expenses
routinely exceed income, according
to the PSC.
The advisory was issued after the
PSD's certified water and sewer operator, Jimmie Starcher, resigned his
position. Starcher was overseeing
the PSD's full-time operator, Jeremy
Westfall, who was hired two months
ago and has not taken the training to
work on his own.
Starcher, the retired water and
sewer operator for the Town of
Reedy, began work last year after
Tom Fluharty retired.
Mt. Zion PSD secretary/treasurer
Shirley Mace said Starcher told her
he was quitting because he did not
feel enough progress was being
made. Mace said she was not sure
what Starcher meant.
The PSD's three members, including
vice chairman Roscoe "Cokie"
Gainer, met in an emergency session
Sunday evening at Arnoldsburg
Community Building. Mt. Zion PSD
Attorney Tom Whittier and engineer
Jim Hildreth also attended the session.
The only item on the agenda was
getting the boil water advisory lifted.
Whittier said options included
finding another certified operator to
supervise Westfall, entering into an
operations and maintenance agreement
with Grantsville, or merging
with Pleasant Hill PSD in northern Calhoun County.
Hildreth noted that Pleasant Hill
does not have a sewer system, so
they would not have a certified sewer
operator. Although the boil water
advisory does not impact the sewer
system, he said the W.Va. Division
of Environmental Protection could
issue fines without a certified operator available.
Postalwait said she had spoken
with Westfall about taking the training
to become certified, but he was
not certain what he would do.
"He said he didn't want to go
down with us," Postalwait reported
to the others.
Mace said her daughter, Norma
Collins, who is the PSD's administrative
assistant, had taken the week long
course and passed the exam,
but she had not completed the 1,000
hours of supervised field work to become
During the meeting, PSD members
tried to call other licensed operators
who live in the area, but were
not able to reach any on Sunday evening. They agreed to continue the effort
after the meeting was over.
Hildreth said the advisory could
be lifted the next day, "if one of these
people would come on board."
The PSD's regular monthly meeting, usually set for the second Monday of the month, was moved to Thursday at 6 p.m. when the issue was expected to be discussed again.