Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 5, 2013

Taking action: Citizens fighting for vital project

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Residents living in the small Coalwood community of McDowell County are to be applauded for their persistence and their willingness to fight for a long-planned and urgently needed sewage treatment facility.

The community has been fighting for a sewage treatment system since 1993. And citizens in Coalwood correctly argue that they have been “studied to death.” They now think it is time for action, and are calling upon lawmakers on both the state and federal level to make this long-planned sewage treatment system a reality.

Residents in the community recently met with representatives of the Region I Planning and Development Council, the state Department of Environmental Protection, and Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, at the Coalwood Volunteer Fire Department to discuss the ongoing efforts to bring sewer service to the area.

U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., tried in 2011 to get a $200,000 Small Cities Block Grant to finance a sewer engineering study for Coalwood, according to community resident Cathy DeHaven. That federal funding request was unsuccessful, and the community is still trying to find funding for the project. It has been estimated that a Coalwood sewer plant project would cost up to $7.1 million.

Raw sewage in the community is still being discharged into the Clearfork Stream. That’s a major concern, and you would think that lawmakers — and the Environmental Protection Agency — would take steps to help address this obvious problem. Apparently not. Perhaps the EPA is too busy going after coal miners than to address a real health concern.

In fact, residents in the community say they thought they recently had a shot at securing federal funds for the project, but it was explained to them at about the same time the EPA became aware of chicken farming polluting the Chesapeake Bay. The resulting EPA crackdown on chicken farming subsequently took the biggest part of available funding away from small communities such as Coalwood, according to DeHaven.

But folks in Coalwood still need help. And the EPA, and lawmakers, should be helping.

Sadly, getting any assistance from the federal government at the moment looks like a losing proposition — as officials in Washington simply can’t agree upon anything nowadays.

However, the voices of those in Coalwood who are willing to stand up and fight for what is right for their community shouldn’t and won’t be silenced. Folks in Coalwood — a community known across the nation thanks to the 1999 motion picture “October Sky” — are to be applauded for their efforts to date.

And we strongly urge them to continue their fight.

 No stone should be left unturned in the search for state and federal dollars needed to complete this long-planned and urgently needed project.