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Residents push to have water issues addressed

July 03, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Jefferson County official said a recent move by Blue Ridge Mountain area residents to improve their long-standing water problems is one of the best proposals that he's seen.

Last Thursday, a petition from a group of Blue Ridge Mountain residents was presented to the Jefferson County Commission asking that a "community improvement association" be formed to tackle the area's water problems, Commission member Jane Tabb said.

The water well system that serves hundreds of people in the Westridge Hills, Harpers Ferry Campsites and Keyes Ferry Acres subdivisions has experienced numerous problems including undersized lines, leaks and high levels of iron in the water, officials have said.

When leaks occur in the system, it can take days to find them, officials have said, and customers often experience low water pressure while the leaks are being repaired.

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Jefferson Utilities, a private utility company in the county, took over the water system in an attempt to stabilize the problems.

At one point, a proposal to replace the water system by extending a water line from the City of Charles Town was suggested. Homeowners did not support the proposal because of its cost, which would have been about $10 million, officials said.

Forming a community improvement association, which is allowed under state law, would possibly allow for the flow of state and federal funds to correct water problems on the mountain, Tabb said.

One of the issues is that Jefferson Utilities struggles to obtain grant money because it is a private company, Tabb said.

Commission member Dale Manuel said he likes the approach being taken by Blue Ridge Mountain residents.

"It's the closest I've seen to getting a viable solution," Manuel said.

Manuel said the commission's attorneys are currently verifying the names on the petition. At least 25 percent of customers of a water system must sign a petition to form a community improvement association, Manuel said.

Once that part of the process is completed, a study will have to be conducted to estimate the cost of the upgrades to the water system, Manuel said.

Manuel said water customers probably will have to bear some of the burden of paying for the upgrades.

Tabb said she was not sure how many signatures were in the petition. There were "several pages" of signatures containing more than 100 names, Tabb said.

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