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Meeting on Jefferson Co. water project draws few residents

December 18, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Only about 15 or so of the nearly 400 customers of three failing private water systems on Blue Ridge Mountain attended a meeting Thursday night to hear details of a proposed $14.5 million project to bring safe water to their homes.

"I expected more people to be here," said Susanne Lawton, general manager of the Jefferson County Public Service District. The rest of those present were local government and PSD officials and representatives of engineering firms planning the system. If built, the system will provide water to Westridge Hills, Harpers Ferry Campground and Keyes Ferry Acres, the three contiguous developments on the mountain across the Shenandoah River from Millville.

Complaints of poor water quality and pressure has plagued the developments for several decades. Many of the homes started out in the early 1960s as seasonal properties that have been turned into permanent homes over the years.

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Under the PSD/Jefferson Utilities Inc. partnership, Jefferson Utilities will own and run the new mountain system and the PSD, as a government agency, will be able to apply for grants and interest-free loans to fund part of its construction costs.

Jefferson Utilities owns and operates the three mountain systems. They are in such bad condition "that a complete replacement appears to be the only way to supply these citizens with a safe and reliable source of potable water," according to a project narrative explaining the problem and its solution.

Engineers working for the partnership have selected one of four plans they studied to fix the aging systems. In it, Jefferson Utilities would supply the water for the single new mountain system that would serve all three developments.

Rates, which have not been established, but which will go up to pay for the unfunded part of the project, would be shared equally by Jefferson Utilities' 2,200 customers in the valley below and those on the mountain, officials said.

The project involves tapping onto Jefferson Utilities lines, running a pipe under the Shenandoah River and pumping the water up the mountain into new water lines. They will be built near, but not over the existing lines so service won't be disrupted during construction.

The new system will see three new water tanks holding a total of 287,000 gallons, 159,000 feet of new water lines, a new booster station and an existing one to be refurbished and the installation of 87 fire hydrants, the first ones in the three developments, which should help to lower residents' fire insurance premiums, officials said.

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