WV Public Broadcasting | Drinking Water from an Abandoned Mine? Really.

The article below published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting takes a look into the sources of fresh drinking water for some families within West Virginia, and what is happening to those sources. How will higher elevations deal with lower water tables? WVpac.org previews articles that are relevant to our mission.

Drinking Water from an Abandoned Mine? Really.

It’s been happening for years – water systems are slowly coming to a breaking point. The next episode of Inside Appalachia explores one legacy of the coal mining industry – crumbling water infrastructure.

In Garwood, West Virginia, One Woman Fights for Water

Jessica Griffith has lived in Garwood, West Virginia, in Wyoming County, her whole life. She’s a customer of Garwood Community Water, which draws its water from an abandoned mine. This past fall, she said, the water situation was the worst it’s ever been.

“You never know what you’re going to wake up to,” she said. “Some days there might be a little bit of water, enough for you to wash a couple of dishes. Some days you might not have anything at all.”…

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How could this happen?

The Garwood water system is what the Environmental Protection Agency calls an “intractable system,” which means it has no administrative contact and no one to test the water for contaminants or submit the proper paperwork.

According to the DHHR, eight out of 911 total water systems in West Virginia are intractable. All of them are in southern West Virginia, and four of them are in Wyoming County…

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Will the Garwood system be fixed?

The neighboring town of Alpoca has experienced fewer water-related issues ever since the Eastern Wyoming County Public Service District, which is currently being overseen by the Logan County Public Service District, began helping with a new project to replace the water lines.

It was funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a Small Cities Block Grant and the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council. Engineers expect to have enough money left over to fund water line extensions to parts of Garwood, but they won’t know for sure until spring this year.

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What are the risks of using mine water as a drinking source?

Every water system in the country is required under the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act to test for certain contaminants. Garwood stopped reporting test results to the DHHR after 2014. The DHHR said that typically, systems that fail to report are issued a series of violations. But because no one is responsible for Garwood Community Water, there is no one to penalize. The best the DHHR could do, a spokesman said, was issue boil water notices.

“To discontinue a public water system would create problems with sanitation and in some instances fire protection. This would be a very difficult action to take with a community,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “As these communities remain a public water system, one method of attempting to protect public health is to continue issuing boil water notices to these areas.”

Read the entire story… West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Source: Drinking Water from an Abandoned Mine? Really.