McMechen Receives $6.65M for Water Plant

Federal rural development grant to pay for upgrades

Photo by Alan Olson McMechen’s water works will be the focus of major repairs in the coming year, where new pumps, new wells, and a new water treatment plant are in order.

The city of McMechen was selected to receive $6.65 million in federal rural development funding to build a new water treatment plant and other upgrades for the water system.

As part of a larger program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the multi-million dollar loan will be used by the city to construct the new water plant, rehabilitate and install security for the city’s ground wells, complete waterline replacements and rehabilitate two storage tanks for use by the city.

Mayor Gregg Wolfe said the water plant has been a topic he and the city council had been working toward for years, and that he was happy to see some results.

“The plant itself is so far dilapidated, and been let go for so long, even the clear well was crumbling and cracked. The pumps are not obsolete, but they’ve been so poorly maintained over the years, we don’t even rebuild them anymore. We fix what we’ve got. … The biggest part of this will be at the water treatment plant, where we’ll have a new clear well, and we’ll be switching from chlorine gas to chlorine to purify the water, and some new pumps.”

Wolfe said the loan will cover the entirety of the project, and work is expected to begin early next year.

“We’ve been working on this for three years, since the second week of council when I got in there, we’ve been working on this and it finally came to fruition,” Wolfe said. “The water project’s been coming together for years. Construction should start this spring sometime. The engineering’s been done, for the most part, there’s just some details to work out. It’ll all go out for bid, and as soon as we get our bids in for the construction phase, we’ll get it going.”

Wolfe said many of the city’s pipes are nearing 75 years old, with many others pushing 50, and have been in need of repair for some time.

“What we’ve got is a bunch of 2-inch galvanized pipes that have just not been replaced. We constantly have leaks, probably three to five leaks a week. The worst place is along Caldwell Street. The new plan is, our main line will run along Caldwell Street, drop down to Marshall, and work toward the river. … We will prioritize the places that we know have 2-inch lines, because those are the ones that corrode first.”

“When council and myself got here three years ago, people forgot we had a boil order and brown water about every two weeks, maybe more than that. That’s the reason the first thing we focused on was getting dependable, potable fresh water for this town. … We’ve got fire hydrants that run off a 2-inch line, and anyone who’s hooked up to a hydrant to put out a fire will know that doesn’t work too well.”

Wolfe estimated that once construction begins, it would likely take 12 to 18 months to complete, but additional projects were also proposed while the work on the pipes was being done, to save time and money.

“What this project leads into is a stormwater separation project that a lot of government agencies are pushing us to get done. While we have the streets torn up, we’ll fix everything that goes underneath — storm sewers versus sanitary sewers, because you don’t want to pave it twice. A huge part of the cost is resurfacing the road, so we’re trying to be real cautious with how we do that, make sure we have all our ducks in the row.”

City Clerk Julie Bratton said obtaining the loan took the effort of the whole city, and was a major project for several years. She expects the loan to be finalized by the year’s end.

More than $9.2 million was announced earlier this week by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. and Shelley Moore Capito,. R-W.Va., from the USDA’s Rural Development program, to also include Lewis, Mingo and Wyoming counties.

“Access to quality public services and economic opportunity are essential for West Virginia’s rural communities to thrive,” Capito said in a statement. “This funding will assist local leaders in their efforts to grow our economy and improve the quality of life for West Virginians.”