Health Dept. urges Apple Orchard Acres residents to file complaints about water
Doris Fobare wants to know how she’s going to sell her home in Apple Orchard Acres subdivision if prospective buyers turn on the water tap and get nothing.
“Who’s going to buy a house that has no water?” Fobare asked the Morgan County Health Board taskforce that was formed several months ago to address the subdivision’s water issues.
“It makes our homes useless and worthless,” Fobare said.
Fobare was one of a dozen residents of the subdivision who attended a meeting of the taskforce last Tuesday, September 20.
While the development near Tabor Road is served by a private water system run by a private company, local health officials agreed to help residents sort out what they might do about water shortages and water quality concerns there.
Not enough water
For more than a year, residents said they have run out of water, been advised to boil their water to address quality issues and had trouble with discolored water.
Valley Water & Sewer, which owns and runs the water system, has been trucking in water from Martinsburg to supply more than 50 residences when the system’s wells fail to pump enough water.
Water operator Jeff Pippel and Stephanie Reel, representing Valley Water & Sewer, assured residents and health officials that improvements are being done to the water system to make it work better.
Pippel said storage capacity has been increased with a new transducer, and there is now an automated system in place to notify him when water levels are low.
Reel said the company already has the new meters it will install at each residence. The meters will allow the company to better monitor leaks and water usage. They will be installed within a few weeks, Reel said.
Wells don’t have capacity
Bill Kyne, a resident of Apple Orchard Acres, said the industry standard for a residence is for a well to put out at least three gallons per minute.
With 50 homes on the system, the company’s three wells should put out 150 gallons per minute, Kyne said.
“That would be great to have, but we don’t have it,” said Reel.
Pippel said the wells feeding all the residences in the subdivision put out a combined flow of 10 gallons per minute.
“We are trying to get you better quality. We’re talking to professionals about options. We’re not ignoring you,” Reel told the residents gathered at the meeting.
Estimates from the company about the cost of upgrading main lines, wells and storage have ranged from $200,000 to $1 million. The owner has said he’s not prepared to invest in those upgrades, since he already loses money on the system.
File complaints with state
Health officials said they understood residents’ frustrations in trying to get answers to their questions about water rates and water quality.
Board member Margie Allgyer encouraged property owners to open formal complaints with the West Virginia Public Service Commission against Valley Water & Sewer.
“Have them open it up. I think it will get their attention,” said Allgyer.
“I really think the people of Apple Orchard Acres deserve to have potable water,” she said.
Some residents asked how often their water is tested, and by whom. Pippel said he does all the required quality testing, drawing samples from four homes in the subdivision and sending the samples to certified labs.
Others asked if the state Office of Environmental Health had ever inspected the whole water system.
New wells or better system?
Health department head Lee Fowler urged residents to figure out among themselves how they want to proceed with their efforts.
“Do you want to be going toward public water or do you want wells?” Fowler asked.
Currently, many of the subdivision’s lots aren’t large enough to meet setback rules for a private well.
But in the last week, some lot owners have already applied for and gotten permits to drill a new well for their homes. The health department recently lifted a ban on wells for lots not restricted by state rules.
Fowler encouraged all residents of the subdivision to attend the next taskforce meeting on Tuesday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m. The location of the meeting has not been set.