Federal pilot program seeks professionals for major sewer system overhaul project in West Virginia’s McDowell County

(UI) — With assistance from a federal Environmental Protection Agency pilot program, hundreds of residents of McDowell County who rely on an outdated sewer system that dumps trash into a stream might receive contemporary services, the Register-Herald reported.

For the purpose of evaluating the sewer requirements in both areas, the McDowell County Public Service District recently placed an advertisement in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph seeking consulting engineering companies, an accountant, a project attorney, an appraiser, a review appraiser, a right-of-way negotiator, and bond counsel.

Mavis Brewster, the PSD director for McDowell County, said on Monday that the PSA is collaborating with a federal EPA pilot program that is evaluating infrastructure requirements.

The McDowell County PSA was invited to take part in "Closing America's Wastewater Access Gap: A Community Pilot Initiative" by the EPA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, and the state Department of Environmental Protection Clean Water Revolving Fund.

This pilot project aids in the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act by supplying technical help from both federal departments to historically marginalized neighborhoods, deal with wastewater issues, and submit grant requests. Potential beneficiaries of this scheme have been identified as Northfork and Keystone.

Brewster told the Register-Herald that the professionals the PSD is looking for will compile data for setting up a Keystone and Northfork sewage system. Both towns are connected to an antiquated collecting system that "straight pipes" sewage to Elkhorn Creek.

The goal, according to Brewster, is to gather sufficient data and create a sewage design so that the McDowell County PSA may submit a grant application. The county PSA had to recruit engineers and other specialists in order for the EPA pilot project to proceed.

According to Brewster, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has a consent order covering the previous systems, which were developed by coal firms. Although the DEP claims that the issues with the existing system need to be fixed, it is also acknowledged that the county PSD does not currently have the funds to do so.

There are several difficulties that engineers developing a Northfork/Keystone sewage system must overcome.

“There are many houses on the hills and they are just stacked,” Brewster told the Register-Herald. The coal companies created level areas and retaining walls above the Keystone and Northfork downtowns in order to build as many miners’ homes as possible. Engineers may have to consider designing several smaller sewer plants rather one large plant to serve the entire area.

Keeping the old sewer system in operation while a new one is being built must be considered, too. In some cases, the system has old pipes “and the ground may be the only thing holding them together,” Brewster told the Register-Herald.

The hope is to complete the study by September.

“We’ve had several sites visits in Northfork and Keystone, met with the mayors of both towns and council members to inform them of the program and the efforts being made to address the wastewater needs in the communities. We participate in bi-weekly team calls to keep everyone informed of the progress being made,” Brewster told the Register-Herald. “We will be going door-to-door soon to complete a survey with the residents in Northfork and Keystone.”

She said the sewer system in Northfork and Keystone would be comparable to one recently finished in the Coalwood region, which is anticipated to be linked to consumers within the next two weeks.

This story was originally reported by the Register-Herald.

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