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Marshville to wait longer for municipal water

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

Residents of the Marshville area who have been plagued by drying wells and contaminated water will have to wait until next year to receive a municipal water supply.

Many residents in the Olive-Marshville-Catfish Hollow areas have wells that are contaminated by acid and sulfur or wells that are going dry because of destabilization caused by past coal mining activity. Two or three years ago, the federal government provided a $998,000 grant to the Harrison County Commission under the auspices of the Abandoned Mines Law to extend municipal water to the area through the Short Line Public Service District. However, the grant did not cover the total project cost of $2,196,720, said Terry Schulte, director of the Harrison County Planning Commission.

On Feb. 2, the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council provided a $431,453 grant and a $767,027 loan to cover the remaining project cost. Schulte said county officials were hoping to meet with council at the beginning of the year, but the council did not schedule a meeting until May.

"We thought it was going to be quicker than it was," Schulte said. "There are people out there without an adequate water supply, and it's a terrible situation. Having the meeting in May made a few months difference, but there's nothing we can do. The Infrastructure Council sets the schedule for the project."

Infrastructure Council Chairman James D. Williams outlined the project schedule in a May 11 letter to Eugene Rogers, chairman of Short Line PSD. To comply with the agreement, Short Line PSD must abide by the following start and finish dates: file certificate case with the PSC --Sept. 22; rights of way, easements and land acquisition, start -- Aug. 10, finish -- Jan. 10, 2001; open bids, Feb. 12, 2001; construction, start - June 1, 2001, finish -- Feb. 1, 2002.

Schulte said the final design has been completed, and the PSD is sending preliminary notices and meeting with property owners about rights of way.

Mariolive Cummings, a retired nurse and resident of Rt. 4, Salem, said Friday that residents of the area are suffering from lack of potable water and she feels the county commission has been "sitting on the money."

"People should not suffer for lack of sanitary drinking water. The engineering and planning has been done. They're ready to roll but they're sitting on the money," Cummings said. "I'm 76, and I don't want to die before it's done."

Cummings also said she had worked to get the matching funds as a member of the Silver-Haired Legislature.

Commission President Roger Diaz said Friday county officials not only have to abide by the schedule in the grant agreement, but had to wait for the state to provide money to cover costs.

"We had to wait a long time for the state to come through with additional money so we could get the job done," Diaz said. "To say we're dragging our feet is an improper connotation."

Staff writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.

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