Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


April 13, 2014

Elgood water: Worthy of Small Cities Block Grant

— — For many residents in Mercer County and other parts of southern West Virginia, public water service is a goal that has been a distant dream for too many years. A large number of households in the more remote communities often have to depend on well water for their daily needs. Wells can be unreliable sources of clean water. They are often full of minerals or contaminated with bacteria that make their water unsuitable for human consumption.

Another alternative is to buy water or make regular trips to natural springs. This consumes a lot of a time, and the quality of the spring water is not always guaranteed. It has not been tested for contaminants or purified.

What these communities really want is access to public water systems. With public water, they would have a reliable source of water for drinking, bathing and cooking. Unfortunately, the region’s mountainous terrain does not make laying water lines and building water facilities an easy or inexpensive task. Creating a water line designed to serve even a small community of a hundred people or less can cost millions of dollars. Smaller cities and towns rarely have enough funds to pay such a bill. The answer is to seek state or federal funding.

The Mercer County Commission recently approved a resolution to reapply for a Small Cities Block Grant that would provide funding for the Mercer/Summers IV-Elgood Water Project. The county is seeking $1.5 million, which would help pay for the $5,128,000 project that would serve more than 150 households in the Elgood area.

One Elgood resident told the county commission that his family farm, established in the 19th century, has never had public water service. His grandson still has to truck water to the property for daily use. He rightly said that his family and too many other people have had to wait too long for water service. Many homes have never been connected to a public water line.

While a state Small Cities Block Grant would not pay for the entire project, having the funding would help raise more money in the form of other grants and loans, said Jeff Johnson, community development director of the Region I Planning & Development Council. State officials could select recipients by October. There is a lot of competition for these loans.

The county commission has been working to bring public water service to the county’s more remote areas. Now state officials have to step up and approve this worthwhile project. Safe water is a necessary part of every person’s quality of life. People should not have to risk their health by using questionable wells or by wasting time and money on hauling water to their homes. Getting the funding needed for extending public water lines into rural communities is a project that cannot stop until every home has a reliable source of safe, clean water.

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