Water woes continue in Apple Orchard Acres
by Jazz Clark
A disgruntled resident of the Apple Orchard Acres subdivision has filed a formal complaint against Valley Water & Sewer with the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC), the agency that oversees all utility companies in the state.
Bobby Bourne told the PSC and Morgan County Health Department officials last week that his complaint centers on Valley Water & Sewer’s water rates.
Valley Water & Sewer is the company that operates the private water system in the Apple Orchard Acres development where Bourne lives.
Water pressure issues and high rates have brought the Morgan County Health Department to seek guidance from the PSC on possible solutions.
“We have very low-capacity tanks, ” said commission engineer Joe Marakovits. “The leaks make the water pressure almost non-existent some days, since they only have three working wells and only 15 gallons output per minute. Plus, 8,000 gallons of storage just is not enough for this system.”
Residents became more concerned about health issues when notices went out to boil their water.
But PSC officials said the notice results from low water pressure, “not because the water is contaminated,” said Marakovits.
Problems with the current system date back to when previous owners were in charge, said Lee Snyder, owner of Valley Water & Sewer.
“We wouldn’t be having this problem if the pipes were properly installed 20 years ago,” said Snyder.
“I wouldn’t have a problem for providing a new set of everything if we could afford it,” Snyder said. “But we’re throwing down $50 per thousand gallon for water and bringing in $17 and some change. We aren’t making any money.”
Snyder says because they run a private utility, they aren’t eligible for grants.
Bourne filed the recent complaint because the utility costs are unbearable for him in this economy.
“I’m not living week-to-week, I’m living day-to-day,” Bourne said. “I have no issues with the quality or the service, but the rates are too high and promises have not been kept. We’re paying $77 a month for just water and haven’t seen any improvements.”
At one time everyone in the community was charged a flat rate of $20 per month for water. Only in the last year have meters been installed at all households, allowing proper gauging of water use.
Before that time, there was no way of knowing just how much water was being wasted, confirms PSC Engineering Administrator David Dove. But, the average household in West Virginia uses 3,500-4,500 gallons of water in a month.
Borne isn’t the only one feeling neglected by Valley Water.
“We feel trapped by a failing system,” said resident Susan Winkler. “We don’t want to abandon a
company, but what choice do we have?”
The system is aging, she said, and is only going to get worse with time. Winkler just wants to know what plans are in place for correcting the problems.
Once an administrative judge has their information from the Public Service Commission, they will likely set a hearing for the pending complaint case.
Decisions will be made at that time on recommending new wells, a larger storage tank and better piping, said Dove.
During their March 19 meeting, the Morgan County Board of Health stated several times that they have no legal responsibility for Apple Orchard Acres.
But, health officials said they felt the informational meetings are necessary. They thanked the Public Service Commission and general public for their input on the residents’ water situation.