NEW CUMBERLAND - Ten months after breaking ground on a new water treatment plant, the Oakland Public Service District is letting customers know that its expanded drinking water system is almost ready.
The district, which provides water service to about 850 customers in central and southern Hancock County, is sending a letter to customers this week with updated information and instructions on how to connect to the new system.
New customers won't be able to hook up to the system, however, until they receive a notice of availability, which likely will be sent out after the Oakland PSD board's next regular meeting on May 21, said Cindy Jones, district chairwoman.
The system is expected to be online sometime later this month or in early June, after engineers do final testing of the new water lines, storage tanks and treatment plant, said Gregory Scott, senior project manager for Buchart Horn Inc., a Pittsburgh engineering firm.
"Everything has to be done and ready for the customer before people can connect," Scott said. "We've got to go through these procedures to make sure the lines are leak-free and are safe, with no bacteria."
The $5 million improvement project is part expansion, part treatment system overhaul. The project's five components are:
Construction of a 35-by-40-foot water treatment plant on Hardins Run Road;
Construction of a 375,000-gallon storage tank on Chapman Road;
Construction of six and a half miles of water line on Tope, Gibson and Chapman roads; part of Cameron Hollow Road; and Kit, Lowes and Daniel drives;
Repainting of the storage tank on Wylie Ridge Road; and
Repainting of the Golden Key storage tank (on Hudson Hill Road).
The centerpiece of the project is the treatment plant, which will remove iron and manganese from the water using a high-rate pressure filter system. The state-of-the-art system is the first of its kind to be built in West Virginia, Scott said.
For years, Oakland PSD customers have complained about odors and stains resulting from elevated levels of iron and manganese in the water. Iron and manganese are considered secondary contaminants, meaning they don't pose a direct health risk to humans unless they are found in very high concentrations.
While district officials have been looking for treatment alternatives to address the problem, the funding for such a project - from state and local sources - did not materialize until 2012.
In addition to ending discolored water, the new system will enhance fire protection, improve service and bring about 90 new customers online, officials said.
Scott said the district's firefighting capacity will be enhanced through the addition of a new storage tank and the installation of fire hydrants in areas previously serviced by private wells. Service will improve during times of water line breaks because the system is "looped" in the area of Wylie Ridge Road, from Chapman Road to Hardins Run Road, he said.
"With looping, the water can go the other direction and bypass that break. It creates redundancy and minimizes the service interruptions," Scott said.
Work that remains to be done includes putting the finishing touches on the treatment plant, completing the installation of water lines on Lowes Drive, and repainting and refurbishing the Wylie Ridge Road storage tank, Scott said.
The latter is scheduled to take until late July but will not cause service disruptions because the new Chapman Road tank will be opened in the meantime, he said.
Once the system is brought online, new customers will have 30 days to connect to it, Jones said. That will require homeowners and landlords to install a pipe from the residence to the meter pit, which is owned and maintained by the district.
New customers must fill out an application for water service and make a deposit of at least $50. Applications should be submitted by May 31 to prevent any delay in water service. For more information, call the district office at 304-797-8353.