Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 20, 2009

Water could soon be flowing into Matoaka

LASHMEET — Help could soon be on the way for another 57 families in Mercer County living without a reliable source of water.

The proposed Mary Branch Water Extension Project will serve several families who are currently on wells. The project planned by the Lashmeet Public Service District also could be extended to serve residents in the town of Matoaka, who are currently experiencing water quality problems.

The Abandoned Mine Land Fund through the Department of Environmental Protection has concluded the project is 63 percent eligible for AML funding, Jeff Johnson, community development director for the Region One Planning and Development Council, said.

“It is pretty much wells,” Johnson said of the existing water source in the Mary Branch community. “That is one reason why they are eligible for Abandoned Mine Land money. The DEP brings in engineers and they do studies to see if the water has been impacted by mining activity.”

The project is proposed by the Lashmeet Public Service District in conjunction with the Mercer County Commission and the town of Matoaka. The PSD is now advertising for engineering services to begin a preliminary engineering study for the project.

If residents of Matoaka and the Matoaka Town Council opt to become part of a larger project, the system could be expanded to provide water service to residents in Matoaka.

“We are trying to work them all in together,” Johnson said. “Matoaka has its own system, but they do have some problems with their water sources. There are 57 potential customers, or households, for the Mary Branch part of the project, and then that doesn’t include customers of Matoaka. Their council has said they are interested, but since they are a public entity basically the people of Matoaka would have to vote to become a part of the Lashmeet PSD.”

Johnson said a best-case scenario project timeline would include having an engineer on board by January to complete the preliminary engineering study applying for additional grant funding for the project by February through the Infrastructure and Job Development Council and applying for a Small Cities Block grant by March if the town of Matoaka opts to join the project.

“Taking the Lashmeet PSD system to Matoaka could also possibly open up opportunities for communities on the other side of Matoaka,” Johnson said.

— Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

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