Sewer systems spew raw waste into West Virginia rivers : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Sewer systems spew raw waste into West Virginia rivers

By ALLISON BARKER, Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (August 2, 2001 8:51 p.m. EDT) - Sewer systems damaged by last month's floods have not been repaired yet, allowing thousands of gallons of untreated sewage to flow into the state's rivers.

"Wastewater in streams is truly a hazardous situation. ... You don't want your pets in it and you certainly don't want your kids touching it," said John Mori, director of the National Environmental Service Center's Small Flows Clearinghouse at West Virginia University.

Forty-five publicly owned treatment plants or collection systems were damaged July 8 when thunderstorms dumped up to 10 inches of rain on the state, said Mike Johnson, assistant chief in the state Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Water Resources.

Most systems are back on line, but at least seven have been hit by repeated flooding and continue to spew raw sewage into waterways.

The town of Mullens in Wyoming County is sending waste into the Guyandotte River because of $300,000 in damages to its sewer system. The $6.6 million system was just built last year; repairs could take a month.

"The sewer system itself is full of grit and sand and blockages," Johnson said. "Some of the households are still connected to the sewer system and are continuing to flush. It's bypassing treatment and flowing directly into the river."

The Tug Fork, Gauley, New and Kanawha rivers also are receiving sewage from towns with damaged sewer systems. Septic systems that serve individual homes also were damaged, 5,000 in Wyoming County alone.

For Mullens resident Eva Smith, whose home was condemned because of flood damage, river contamination is the least of her worries.

"There's a lot that goes into that river that people don't know about. I haven't drunk the water in years," said Smith, 51.

Gov. Bob Wise toured southern West Virginia Thursday with Joe M. Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He said he would ask the Legislature to meet Aug. 8 to allocate at least $30 million for flood aid. FEMA is footing part of the recovery costs.

The July 8 storm and another round of flooding last week destroyed 1,500 homes, damaged another 3,500 and killed three people. Estimates of recovery costs so far exceed $125 million.

Some of the more expensive repairs will be for highways and bridges. The state Division of Highways estimates damages will exceed $21 million.

The state also has to finance the operations of 2,000 National Guardsmen who have worked in the flood zones since July 8. On Thursday, about 700 remained in the field.

-- Martin Thompson (, August 02, 2001

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