Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice is considering a mandatory quarantine for anyone who vacations to hotspot areas outside of West Virginia.

GARY — More water was sent Tuesday to a McDowell County community dealing with a broken municipal water system while West Virginia’s governor and state agencies reached out to help address the situation.

Gov. Jim Justice has ordered the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) and the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) to provide all necessary resources to the City of Gary and other residents of McDowell County, following a recent water system outage in the city, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the governor’s office.

The outage began when the main pump serving the City of Gary water system abruptly stopped working last week, leaving approximately 500 customers without water service. Engineers who evaluated the system determined that the pump was beyond repair and that a new, custom-made pump would need to be purchased and installed because the backup pumps were also not working.

Upon learning about situation last week, Gov. Justice immediately took action, ordering that all state resources be made available right away. Acting upon this order, WVEMD ordered an M149 water trailer from the WVNG, according to the governor’s office. The WVNG delivered the trailer, containing 400 gallons of potable water, to Gary City Hall.

State officials replenished the water supply Tuesday in Gary, delivering thousands more gallons of drinking water – including a 5,500-gallon water tanker from the West Virginia Division of Highways, 500 gallons stored in water trailers from the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and three pallets, stacked with additional cases of water – to ensure that all residents impacted by the ongoing issue have access to all the clean water they need, according to the governor’s office.

“This is yet another example of how, when West Virginians are in need, we run to the fire with everyone and everything we’ve got,” Justice said. “Clean water is absolutely a necessity to life for all of us. Not only are we going to get the great people of Gary through this outage now, we’re also going to do everything in our power to make sure that water is something they never have to worry about again.”

In order to develop long-term solutions for the region’s aging water system infrastructure, the governor has dispatched leaders, engineers, and additional staff members from the West Virginia Water Development Authority and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia to meet with local community officials immediately to identify a plan moving forward, according to the governor’s office.

“For decades and decades, people from many rural areas West Virginia, but especially those from southern West Virginia, have experienced far too many issues with their water systems, particularly in communities that inherited their water systems long ago,” Justice said. “That’s why we need to go beyond just delivering water, get to the root of the problem, and find a way to fix this water system and others like it to make sure our people have reliable access to the water they need in their daily lives.”

In addition to the resources supplied by the state, many civic and private groups donated bottled water to the City of Gary. Members of the Gary Volunteer Fire Department and other volunteers have been delivering donated water to local households.

“The community has really come together,” Dassa Giles of Bluefield, a former Gary resident who is among the former citizens helping the city, told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “It has been a tremendous gathering of community people.”

“Thanks to the leadership of Governor Justice and the cooperative relationship WVEMD shares with State partner agencies and county offices of emergency management, a plan was in place for delivery of water to the City of Gary within hours of notification,” said WVEMD Acting Director Thom Kirk. “These relationships are paramount to the safety and well-being of the citizens of West Virginia.”

McDowell County Emergency Management officials remain in constant contact with WVEMD Operations personnel, reporting on the current situation in Gary and ensuring water and other needs are met promptly, according to the governor’s office.

“We’d like to thank all our state partners, especially Gov. Justice and his staff, for helping our county during this time,” said McDowell County Emergency Management Director Teresa VanDyke. “Everything we’ve requested through the WVEMD has been received.”

Mayor Larry Hairston was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon. 

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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