By Mannix Porterfield
Nothing is in stone yet, but Raleigh County Commission President Dave Tolliver says it “looks real good” that $6.5 million in federal dollars is in the offing to complete the long-waited Bragg-Pluto water project.
A public hearing is planned July 15 at 6:30 p.m. so that affected residents may comment on this major step in a process that began several years ago.
“We were told last week it looks good for funding,” Tolliver said Wednesday.
“It’s a requirement that you have a public meeting for people in the area to listen and show exactly where it’s going and how much it will cost.”
Money is being funneled into the project by the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“It’s not final, but they told us that it looks real good, and usually when they tell you that, you get funded,” Tolliver said.
“Anything can happen, but they did require us to have a public meeting, and once you have a public meeting, it’s a good sign.”
Tolliver said 185 households, now dependent on unreliable wells and water they truck in, would be affected, along with 40 others now served by a mere 2-inch line.
All would be served by an 8-inch line to stretch from a pumping station, in a subdivision above Pluto Road, just beyond the Beckley Water Co. plant.
The commission paid Beckley engineering firm E.L. Robinson Co. $374,000 to design the project.
Tolliver said a major problem in the current setup is that many elderly residents have no source of water except wells.
“In the summer, especially if it’s real dry, a lot of wells go dry,” he said.
“And for the ones that don’t, the water is so red you can’t even use it. It’s sulphur water.”
One man advised the commission president that he installed a system to eliminate the red at a cost of $2,000 a year.
“A lot of people have cisterns that catch the rain water,” Tolliver said.
“And lot of them, when it doesn’t rain, use a 500-gallon plastic tank in the back of trucks to get water and dump into the cisterns, so they have water to wash and stuff like that.”
Difficulties in keeping water supplies replenished are compounded in the winter months when travel is hard over snowy roads, the commission president said.
“When I was growing up, our wells got sunk by the mines,” he said.
“That’s the reason I have worked on this thing to try to get it done. So I know how it is to be in a household without water. If I never get anything else done as a commissioner, I’ll be satisfied. People have to have clean drinking water. It’s a must. This is the only large area in Raleigh County that doesn’t have public water.”
If no unexpected funding delays occur, Tolliver said the actual dirt could be moved starting in January, but completion could take more than a year.
“It’s hard to say,” he said.
“It depends on the weather. If we get started in January, we’re saying 18 months to be on the safe side.”
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