How Secure Is Morgantown Area Water?

An investigation of MUB is in order, or at least an independent review of MUB’s decision-making regarding area water supply, past, present and future.

MUB is spending about $50 million to build a new reservoir system, including placing part of the large pipe by digging into an “active” CERCLA (hazardous waste) site (White Park), which was once part of an oil tank storage depot that experienced massive spills never fully remediated. (Are there no federal inspections and permits required for CERCLA excavations?) MUB’s original and newly considered lines of dig all run next to the existing drinking water reservoir that MUB intends to continue to use in the CERCLA site. Furthermore, MUB either did not know or, worse, did not see as problematic that it had plotted its new pipeline to be dug through two former oil tank locations – not to mention through cherished witness trees and trail – in the active CERCLA site.

Furthermore, MUB has never moved its Mon River water intake away from either the CERCLA site or the cross-river Superfund site, or the Industrial Park, or the new gas fracking pads, also in the Industrial Park, which were fracked at the same time that cancerous bromide was tested for and found in the river, a disturbing correlation if not causation. (Bromide is cancerous when mixed with chlorine, in drinking water.)

So all-in-all, how safe and secure can Morgantown area water actually be considered to be? The river water intake siting is terrible. The threats around it are permanent. Why hasn’t the intake location long since been moved?

Astoundingly, it seems possible that MUB could have solved or avoided all of these problems, in two steps: 1) For $34 million (much less than the cost of the new emergency reservoir), MUB could have put a water intake in the Opekiska pool far upriver, far away from the CERCLA site, the Superfund site, the Industrial Park, and the new gas frack pads. 2) Additionally, at reduced cost, it seems that MUB could have built a reservoir on Joes Run very near a pipeline from an Opekiska intake. Such a reservoir along the river would have saved nearly all pipeline and right of way costs since it could use Opekiska intake pipeline. Being near the Mon River Rail Trail, such a reservoir could also have served as a trail and water park tightly linked to the rail trail.

A Joes Run reservoir and Opekiska pool intake, call it option Jopekiska. Did MUB ever study this potential option or consider it, to get area drinking water away from the highly threatening current locations? If not, why not?

Viable Jopekiska reservoir and intake sites would have upgraded MUB and its rate-payers to two water intakes, one each in different dammed river pools, and two reservoirs, each in different watersheds. Neither that new intake, nor reservoir, nor piping, would have been in, near, or through disturbed ground of a CERCLA site, Superfund site, Industrial Park, or fracking site. No CERCLA ground would have been disturbed, the consequences of which are presumably both unknown and unknowable, in regard to potential contamination of water and air and ground in White Park, all of which continues to be very much integral to the area’s current waterworks. MUB’s current highly threatening intake and reservoir sites could have essentially been abandoned, rather than seeing the continued use that MUB plans.

Incredibly, after spending $50 million, and reportedly increasing rates on customers by an average of nearly $22 per bi-monthly bill, MUB’s new reservoir and sole river water intake keep the entirety of MUB’s water supply in and near a CERCLA site, a Superfund site, an Industrial Park, and gas frack pads, when MUB might have been free and clear of it all. How is it possible that building an additional reservoir above an active CERCLA site was seen as more of a good idea than having a new primary water intake far away from the CERCLA site and the Superfund site and the Industrial Park and the new gas fracking pads, with a possible reservoir also in a free and clear watershed? Did MUB make a $50 million mistake with its rate-payer funds? A $100 million mistake?

Recent and past serious MUB mistakes, already admitted to by MUB head Tim Ball, make it clear that the decisions and leadership at MUB should be thoroughly re-examined to determine whether or not MUB has unwittingly done a grave disservice to area rate-payers and residents, to their finances, health, and environment.

Furthermore, the Morgantown City Manager, if not eligible to be a voting member of MUB, should be required to attend every MUB (board) meeting in perpetuity. Likewise a County Commissioner. Too much happens at MUB too quietly that’s of too great importance to the city and surrounds for Morgantown to not have its main set of eyes and ears close at hand.

This latest apparent MUB fiasco was preceded by Morgantown’s being blindsided by Haymaker Forest development plans, which unbeknownst to anyone else MUB knew all about, and also by MUB’s outrageous involvement in the Scotts Run PSD takeover.

Does MUB know what it is doing? Can MUB be trusted? Are the actions and inactions of MUB itself the greatest ongoing threat to the safety of area drinking water? Given MUB’s recent track record, these questions should not be avoided.

MUB head Tim Ball has backed down before in face of residents’ outrage, and properly so. Ball recently admitted that MUB made a mistake in plotting its route through White Park’s witness trees. However he has said nothing yet about the advisability of major digging in an active CERCLA site.

Similarly, in regard to the takeover of Scott’s Run PSD: Ball initially said that no monies would be available to expand services in the former PSD, post takeover. He reversed his decision after public outrage, by then promising additional services, though he continued to claim there was nothing amiss in the hit-and-run termination of the Scotts Run PSD just as it was on the verge of coming into millions of dollars from the impending area “Ballpark TIF” act. Tim Ball and MUB should be called to account once again, investigated, and be held responsible for any mistakes, a number of which now appear to be much larger than even those already admitted to by MUB.

One Response to “How Secure Is Morgantown Area Water?”

  1. Elizabeth Sneathen Says:

    This damning truth needs to go in our local newspaper. Dominion Post.

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