REEDSVILLE, W.Va. – Some customers in Preston County are angry about the water rate increases that came into effect this month and delays on the construction of a dam.
Preston County Service District Number one (PSD No.1) has increased water rates to by 26.11 percent and to customer Kari Rehe, that is not justifiable.
Rehe said her family has struggled with water quality issues over the last decade and has had to deal with smelly and discolored water that is unsafe to consume.
“Our main concern for our increase is the quality of our water now all of a sudden we have to pay this extra money for water that we can’t use,” Rehe said. “Most of us have been buying bottled water for a very long time, for ourselves, for our children, now for our pets and the concern is growing.”
She is part of a growing Facebook group of customers who say the rate increase does not make sense and is hoping to get more information from PSD No.1.
“It’s not so much that we have an issue with paying the increase, it’s that we have an issue with paying for water that we can’t consume,” Rehe said.”And then some of it is that we don’t have the money. It’s a lot of money–it’s a lot of money.”
Rodney Liston is the board president for PSD No.1 and said the county’s Public Service Commission were the ones that determined the rate increase. He said he lives in PSD NO. 1 and, on occasion, has had problems with his water’s smell and discoloration, although he admits not as often as some of his customers.
Liston said the increase is temporary and slated to last until May of 2020. He said the extra money is being allocated to paying off bonds and because they have had to draw from two alternate sources to provide enough water for the district.
“Due to the hardships with dealing with the alternate water source and treating that with additional expenses, additional manpower, and chemicals to treat the water, expenses have skyrocketed and we’ve had to go back in,” Liston said. “And actually we had the service commission sent up a representative and they performed an audit on our books and operation and they’re the ones that came up with the recent amount of the interim emergency rate.”
As for the dam, Liston said the delays were due to several factors. He said the initial plan to dewater the dam did not go as planned, therefore, they had to go with a backup plan, causing a delay. Currently, the issue at hand is the weather because they cannot lay the 60 layers of concrete necessary in winter conditions. He said the ground temperature needs to be above 32 degrees, the air above 35 and but no more than 70 degrees.
Liston said so far they had laid down 16 layers but it would not be possible to complete the project by the end of the year due to the weather and specific parameters needed for working. He said it was worthwhile to wait on the dam’s construction.
“When the dam project is completed and we’ll be able to go back to our normal treatment process from the reservoir here at such time our expenses are expected to drop down, maybe close to what they were, maybe a little bit escalated because we had to perform some upgrades at the plant as well, that’s combined with the project,” Liston said.
In the meantime, he encourages customers to contact PSD No.1 so that they can work together. He also encouraged customers to file formal complaints, which he said was the only way for them to know exactly what and where the problems existed.
“We ask all customers to call in to help us troubleshoot problem areas because we’re willing to flush lines or whatever it takes to mitigate the issues with the additional treatment of the alternate source,” he said.
Rehe also said she encourages customers to file formal complaints for the very same reason and said her Facebook group helps people navigate that process.
Liston said from the perspective of the health department and others who have sampled the water and from PSD No.1’s personal research, the water meets specifications for being a safe product. However, he said sometimes there are problems and that’s why he encourages communicating with his office.
“I would ask them for the continued patience and also diligence in communicating with us and let us know when you’re having significant problems and we’ll do our best to come flush the lines and come flush the lines and whatever we need to do,” Liston said.