Water Plant Hosts Filtration Training

The Elkins Water Treatment Plant recently hosted a training session on membrane water filtration. The session, which was organized by the West Virginia Rural Water Association (WVRWA), was attended by water treatment operators from several counties as well as engineers from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services. Elkins Chief Water Operator Wes Lambert and the rest of the water operators who staff the city’s plant helped provide hands-on training.

The city’s water treatment plant, which was put into service in 2017 after a $37 million construction project, uses membrane water filtration, as opposed to sand or media filtration. WVRWA convened its training session in Elkins for access to both one of the newest membrane-filtration systems in West Virginia and the knowledge and skills that Lambert and his staff have acquired while operating it.

“Wes and his team have always been open to share information about the membrane filtration technology that the Elkins Water Treatment Plant uses,” said Heather Somers, the WVRWA training specialist who facilitated the training session. “This hands-on training class was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate exactly how that technology works.”

Somers called the training a success and said she looks forward to future opportunities to host training at the Elkins plant.

“West Virginia Rural Water is thankful for the opportunity to facilitate this education opportunity in Elkins,” said Somers. “We’re always looking for ways to train the various professionals dedicated to providing safe drinking water in our state.  We hope to continue collaborative training efforts like this in the future.”

 

 

Illegally Dumped Diesel Fuel Found in Tygart River

Water operators contained a small amount of diesel fuel dumped by an unknown person

On Friday, city, county, and state officials responded to a report of an oily sheen in the Tygart River, near Fifteenth Street.

Elkins Water Board employees determined that the sheen was caused by a small amount of diesel fuel in the river. Water operators immediately took action to contain and neutralize the spill, then investigated for the source of the problem.

No ongoing source of contamination was found, and the facts of the situation are consistent with an unknown person having illegally dumped a limited amount of fuel into a nearby storm drain. The substance in question did not enter the city’s treatment system, and the city’s drinking water was unaffected.

Chief Water Operator Wes Lambert reminds the public that it is illegal to dispose of any substances down storm drains, and additional penalties apply for disposing of petroleum products this way. This is because most of the city’s storm drains empty directly into the river, with no treatment; whatever is poured down one of these drains will go directly into the water.

“The Tygart River is our drinking source water,” says Lambert. “We all must do everything we can to protect that water. That means not dumping anything at all down storm drains, and especially not hazardous waste like petroleum products. Dumping into the stormwater system or the river directly can also harm wildlife and cause problems with drains.”

According to the Randolph County Solid Waste Authority, petroleum products may be disposed of at either Advance Auto Parts or Auto Zone. Other auto-supply stores and service stations may also accept petroleum products for disposal.

Lambert urges the public to report any illegal dumping, signs of contamination (e.g., an oily sheen), or suspicious activity in and around city infrastructure facilities.

“If you see anything that concerns you about our water supply, the best thing to do is call 911,” says Lambert. “When it comes to our drinking water, I would rather be safe than sorry, and calling 911 is the best way to ensure the fastest possible response.”

City Hall News: Week of April 25, 2022

The only meeting scheduled for this week is that of council’s ad hoc Committee on Boards and Commissions. There will be Arbor Day observances on Friday and an Earth Day Celebration on Saturday.

The Committee on Boards and Commissions meets Wednesday at 9 a.m. This committee was formed to review city and state statutes establishing and regulating all city boards and commissions, as well as external boards and commissions to which the Elkins council has appointment authority. After this week’s review of the Elkins Water Board and the Board of Trustees of the Elkins-Randolph County Public Library, the committee will have concluded its work and will be dissolved.

The Elkins Tree Board will commemorate Arbor Day at 2 p.m. on Friday at Glendale Park, near the Pollinator Alley area. At 5 p.m., a tree will be planted at Bluegrass Park by members of the Emma Scott Garden Club.

There will be an Earth Day Celebration at Elkins City Park on Saturday, 12-2 p.m. The event will feature crafting and other activities for children, informational displays, and interactive games. All events are free and will take place rain or shine.

First quarter business and occupation (B&O) tax returns are due by the end of the month.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

New Loader Key to Wastewater Biosolids Program

With the delivery of a new piece of heavy equipment this week, the Elkins Wastewater Treatment Plant is positioned to continue and potentially expand a program through which sewage-treatment by-products are transformed into fertilizer for area farmers.

The approximately $100,000 purchase of a LiuGong 835H wheel loader was funded from the City of Elkins ARPA award. The new loader includes a Cummins engine and power-shift transmission, safety features such as a rearview camera and 309-degree panoramic view from the operator’s seat, and a fully sealing cab that will provide better protection against fumes generated during wastewater treatment.

The new loader, which replaced one that was four decades old, is crucial to the department’s biosolids program.

Biosolids, a semisolid, nutrient-rich substance also known as “sewage sludge,” are a product of the wastewater treatment process. Once sewage arrives at the plant through the pipes of the wastewater collection system, it passes through a series of steps that separate its liquid and solid components. The liquid components are purified before being released as surface water. The solid components are treated to produce biosolids, which may then be applied to qualifying agricultural land as fertilizer.

“We use belt presses and polymer chemistry to dewater the biosolids,” says Whitney Hymes, the chief wastewater operator for the Elkins Sanitary Board. “The conveyor system deposits the biosolids on the floor, and we use our front-loader to scoop it up and collect it.”

The next step in the process depends on the time of year.

“During the winter, we have to store it on site, but during warmer months we have local farmers who want to spread it on their fields,” says Hymes. “It’s extremely nutrient rich, with lots of nitrogen and phosphorous, so it makes excellent fertilizer. We had one farmer who told us he doubled his hay yield by using our biosolids.”

Land application of wastewater biosolids is highly regulated because the process that generates the biosolids can result in high concentrations of metals and other undesirable contaminants. Only biosolids meeting strict EPA standards may be used this way. The land where it will be applied must be evaluated, and laboratory employees at the wastewater treatment plant must carefully monitor pollutant and pathogen levels to ensure that each batch of biosolids is safe to use this way.

“Before we can apply the biosolids to any agricultural land, we have to take soil samples and make sure that, after application, the total metals and other pollutants in the soil won’t exceed federal limits,” says Hymes. “We come back and check quarterly to make sure everything is still within the required parameters.”

The Elkins Wastewater Treatment Plant biosolids program operates under a Class B license, which limits application to agricultural land only. Hymes is currently evaluating whether the city might shift to a Class A license.

“Under a Class A license,” Hymes explains, “we’d be operating a mill that transforms the biosolids into pellets, which we could sell to anyone who is interested, from farmers to home gardeners.”

Whether the program continues to operate under a Class B license or shifts to a Class A, the new loader will play a vital role for years to come. The Elkins Wastewater Treatment Plant generates 200-250 dry tons of biosolids each year, and the plant’s loader is in operation throughout most of each workday.

“We run our loader 5-6 hours a day, five days a week,” says Hymes. “That was a lot to ask of our old one, which was way overdue for replacement. I’m really pleased that we were able to make this purchase using ARPA funds to minimize the impact on our customers.”

WWTP employees receive training on their new wheel loader from a company representative.

A side view of the new loader.

APPLICATION PERIOD EXTENDED: Water Board Vacancy

Last modified on April 28th, 2022 at 03:38 pm

Council will soon fill a vacancy on the Elkins Water Board. City residents who wish to be considered for appointment to this important volunteer position are encouraged to submit an application to the city clerk no later than April 29. Update: The application period has been extended to Friday, May 13.

What the Board Does

The Elkins Water Board is responsible for the the management, control, and operation of the Elkins Public Waterworks System. The water board collaborates with city council in establishing rates and planning and securing funds for capital projects. Council is ultimately responsible for setting rates, issuing bonds, and similar matters.

Membership

There are five seats on the board, one of which must be filled by the mayor (or the mayor’s designee). At least three members must be Elkins residents, and all must be West Virginia residents. Water board members are appointed by the Elkins council to four-year terms; membership is unpaid.

As the current vacancy arose from a resignation, the successful applicant will be appointed for an unexpired term ending March 31, 2023. Again, this applicant must be a city resident.

Meeting Times

The regular meetings of the Elkins Water Board are on fourth Tuesdays at 4 p.m. in the council chamber at Elkins City Hall. The board may also hold special meetings with two days’ notice when needed.

More Information

Visit the Elkins Water Board homepage for more information.

To Apply

Apply by downloading and completing this PDF application form. The form may be submitted to the city clerk’s office by email, mail, or hand delivery. Please ensure your application arrives no later than April 29. Update: The application period has been extended to Friday, May 13.

City Hall News: Week of April 18, 2022

Meeting this week are council’s Municipal Properties Committee, the Elkins Sanitary Board, the Elkins Historic Landmarks Commission, and the Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission. Council’s regular third Thursday meeting has been moved to Tuesday at 7 p.m., and volunteers are needed to help with tree planting in City Park on Friday, in observance of Earth Day.

The Sanitary Board meets Monday at 2 p.m. Agenda items include replacement of the 2010 F550 service truck and approval to purchase a spare pump for the Steward Avenue lift station.

Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. Business items on the final agenda include personnel actions, a memorandum of understanding with area law enforcement agencies concerning mutual aid, the latest recommendations from council’s ad hoc ARPA Advisory Committee, and the first of two readings of an ordinance that would regulate parking in downtown alleys.

The Historic Landmarks Commission meets Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the Darden House (next door to city hall). Agenda items include CLG report discussion, review of state and city laws establishing the commission, consideration of the possibility of establishing a new meeting place for the commission, and an update on a vacancy on the commission.

On Wednesday at 9 a.m., the Municipal Properties Committee meets to plan an RFP for streetscape design, discuss the disposition of a piece of city-owned floodplain adjacent to a section of the former International Order of Odd Fellows property, and consider a request from Davis Medical Center for possible changes to traffic patterns on Gorman Avenue.

The Parks and Recreation Commission meets Wednesday at 5 p.m. Agenda items include planning the use of a recent bequest for City Park, paving estimates, the pay rate for seasonal staff, and the Seneca Soccer U10 practice field.

Friday is Earth Day. The Elkins Tree Board, Elkins Friends of Trees, and Elkins Parks and Recreation Commission will offer a volunteer opportunity from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. in Elkins City Park. Volunteers are needed to assist with the planting of 30 trees, along with other park maintenance and beautification projects. Volunteers should bring their own gardening tools if possible, but some will be provided.

To avoid penalties, utility bills and in-city Fire & Rescue Service Fees must be paid by Tuesday. First quarter business and occupation (B&O) tax returns are due by the end of the month.

All meetings are open to the public and, unless otherwise stated, held at Elkins City Call (401 Davis Avenue). Find agendas and other meeting information here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-and-committee-meetings.

Elkins Tree Board to Celebrate Arbor Day

Contact: Marilynn Cuonzo, Chair, Elkins Tree Board mcuonzo@cityofelkinswv.com

ELKINS-The Elkins Tree Board will hold its official recognition of Arbor Day Friday, April 29, at 2 p.m. in Glendale Park. The event will include planting two sourwood trees in the Pollinator Alley area of the park and the reading of the Mayor’s Arbor Day Proclamation.

An additional Arbor Day event is scheduled at 5 p.m. at Bluegrass Park. The Emma Scott Garden Club is sponsoring this tree-planting ceremony. The two events are part of a week-long series of environment-themed activities, which kick off with an Elkins City Park tree restoration event on April 22 and an afternoon-long Earth Day Celebration on Saturday, April 30.

“We are so excited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day this year,” said Angela Daniels, ETB education coordinator. In the 1870s, Nebraska newspaper editor J. Sterling Morton was enthusiastic about trees and advocated strongly for individuals and civic groups to plant them. Once the secretary of the Nebraska Territory, he further spread his message of the value of trees. On January 4, 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting holiday called “Arbor Day” at a meeting of the State Board of Agriculture.

The celebration date was set for April 10, 1872. Prizes were offered to counties and individuals for the highest number of properly planted trees on that day. It was estimated that more than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day.

“Our city continues that tradition this year by stepping up its tree-planting efforts, with more than 100 trees placed in the ground in the past year by an extraordinary number of volunteers,” Daniels said. “We are also grateful to those who first started the Elkins Tree Board. Those early tree enthusiasts recognized the importance of having a healthy, well-maintained urban forest.”

This year also marks the 14th time Elkins has been recognized as a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation. The foundation honored the city for its commitment to effective urban forest management. The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters.

Elkins achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program’s four requirements: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

“Everyone benefits when elected officials, volunteers, and committed citizens in communities like Elkins make smart investments in urban forests,” said Matt Harris, Arbor Day Foundation chief executive.

“Trees bring shade to our homes and beauty to our neighborhoods and numerous economic, social, and environmental benefits,” he said. “Trees are assets to a community when properly planted and maintained. They help improve the visual appeal of a neighborhood, increase property values, reduce home cooling costs, remove air pollutants, and provide wildlife habitat, among many other benefits.

“While most holidays celebrate something that has already happened and is worth remembering, Arbor Day represents a hope for the future. The simple act of planting a tree represents a belief that the tree will grow to provide us with clean air and water, cooling shade, habitat for wildlife, healthier communities, and endless natural beauty — all for a better tomorrow.”

For more information on this event and the Elkins Friends of Trees program, visit the Elkins Friends of Trees Facebook page. If interested in joining Elkins Friends of Trees, email Katy McClane at katy.mcclane@gmail.com. Friends of Trees offers volunteer opportunities to increase and maintain the City of Elkins’ urban greenspace.

The Elkins Tree Board meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in the Darden House next to City Hall. The public is welcome to attend.

–END–

PHOTO CUTLINE:

AmeriCorps members Haley Shreve, left, and Ellen White were among the many volunteers who helped dig holes for 30 trees that will be planted at Elkins City Park this April. The project is one of many that the Elkins Tree Board oversees, with the assistance of Friends of Trees, the City of Elkins, and other volunteer agencies. Elkins has once again been selected as a Tree City and will celebrate Arbor Day April 29.

New Water Valve Reduced Recent Outage Area by Half

Around 100 city residents avoiding falling under a recent Boil Water Notice thanks to a newly installed water valve near the intersection of South Henry Avenue and Fifteenth Street. The new valve allowed Elkins Water Board employees to reduce the area affected by the outage and subsequent Boil Water Notice by about 50 percent.

The valve installed at South Henry and Fifteenth is one of five that Wes Lambert, the city’s chief water operator, decided to install throughout South Elkins after 2021 saw nearly three dozen water outages in that part of the city. Although many factors contribute to the frequency of water-main breaks in that area—old pipes, inherently soft soils, and further soil destabilization resulting from the 2021 sewer/stormwater separation project—one reason the resulting outages were often so widespread is the relatively small number of functioning valves in that part of the city’s water system.

To address this problem of needlessly widespread water outages, Lambert ordered the installation of five new valves in key locations throughout South Elkins during early 2022. These new valves, which can cost as much as $15,000 apiece, were purchased using the city’s ARPA funds. Two of these have been installed so far, including the one at South Henry and Fifteenth.

Lambert is pleased that one of the new valves has already shown its value.

“Ideally, we wouldn’t have any more water-main breaks, but unfortunately that’s unavoidable,” he says. “In the meantime, I’m excited we are already seeing a reduction in how many people are affected by a break because of this new valve.”

Reducing the number of water-main breaks will require widespread replacement of the failing lines, a project that will likely take the better part of a decade and cost tens of millions of dollars. As a first step in that direction, council also dedicated a share of the city’s ARPA funds allotment to retaining an engineering firm to formulate a plan for this work. Read more about council’s prioritization of ARPA funds for infrastructure projects here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/council-focuses-on-infrastructure-for-arpa-funds.

To receive notifications of water outages (usually at least one hour in advance, barring emergencies), Boil Water Notices, and other important information, subscribe to emergency text alerts here: www.cityofelkinswv.com/emergency-text-notifications.

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Photo:

Map below shows actual area of recent Boil Water Notice (in yellow) and the area that would have been included, if not for the new valve (in blue).

Elkins ARPA Committee Awards $154,000 for Community Projects

On Wednesday, a city council committee approved more than $150,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for 11 projects proposed by community organizations, including the Elkins-Randolph County YMCA, the Randolph County Humane Society, the Elkins Farmers Market, and Meals on Wheels.

Elkins officials learned in early 2021 that the city had been awarded $3.08 million under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, with half to be disbursed in 2021 and half in 2022. The mayor ordered formation of an ad hoc ARPA Advisory Committee with membership comprising the chairs of council’s five standing committees: Mike Hinchman (Finance Committee), Marilynn Cuonzo (Municipal Properties Committee), Rob Chenoweth (Personnel Committee), David Parker (Public Safety Committee), and Nanci Bross-Fregonara (Rules & Ordinances).

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the ARPA Advisory Committee had recommended, and  council had approved, some $1.6 million in ARPA expenditures, including for the retention of an engineer to plan systemwide improvements to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure; the purchase of essential supplies and heavy equipment for the city’s sewer, water, and street departments; software upgrades at the water and wastewater treatment plants; ADA and fire-protection upgrades at city hall; training for peer recovery support specialists requested by the mayor’s Addiction and Homelessness Task Force; and rubber mulch for city playgrounds.

In addition, council reserved five percent (approximately $154,000) of the city’s total ARPA award for eligible community-based requests and authorized the ARPA Advisory Committee to make final distribution decisions for this money. These were the funds being disbursed at Wednesday’s meeting.

Applications for these community requests were accepted via an online form through February 28. Applicants were asked to describe their proposed projects; explain why these projects would constitute an appropriate use of ARPA funds; identify specific demographics their projects will benefit; and estimate total costs. Finally, applicants were asked to connect their projects to goals in the city’s 2018-2023 Strategic Plan, if possible.

The city received 22 community proposals. The total of all 22 project budgets was $516,013.66, or $361,767.66 more than the $154,246 allocated by council.

All submitted applications were reviewed by the committee at Wednesday’s meeting. In reviewing proposals, the committee considered many factors, including long-term viability and whether projects duplicated services or facilities already available in the area.

Appearing in support of their applications were representatives of the Elkins Babe Ruth League (request: $50,000 toward new concrete bleachers/stairs for Robin Harvey Field at Bluegrass Park); Davis & Elkins College (request: $50,000 toward new outdoor amphitheater for community concerts and events); and Randolph County Humane Society (request: $20,000 toward its trap/neuter/release program).

After extensive discussion, the committee approved disbursements for the following 11 projects and in the following amounts: Elkins-Randolph County YMCA (youth center bathroom; $5,000); Davis & Elkins College (new amphitheater; $43,746); Randolph County Humane Society (trap/neuter/release program; $17,000); Randolph County Homeless Shelter (security upgrades; $3,000); Meals on Wheels (meal delivery program; $7,000); Our Town (free public activities and events; $3,000); YouthBuild (operating funds; $15,000); Elkins Babe Ruth League (Bluegrass Park bleachers; $50,000); Elkins Farmers Market (equipment, supplies, and marketing; $5,000); Randolph County Community Arts Center (enhanced fine-arts exhibit capabilities; $5,000); Old Brick Playhouse (sound system; $8,000).

Several project proposals were classified as ineligible for the community-proposed category, because—although requested by community organizations—they would have resulted in improvements to city property. These included requests by the Kump Education Center for $5,000 toward construction of an outdoor education pavilion and Woodlands Development Group for $48,000 toward improvements in the Seneca Mall parking lot in support of that nonprofit’s $16 million project to renovate the historic Tygart Hotel building. (The Kump House and the Seneca Mall parking lot are both owned by City of Elkins.) Committee members agreed to refer the Woodlands request to full council for consideration, outside of the community-proposed projects category. The city’s operations manager, Josh Sanson, said that he would secure resources for the Kump Education Center project, either from within the existing Operations Department budget or by submitting a separate internal ARPA request.

Although the Bluegrass Park bleacher project would also result in improvements to city-owned property, the committee approved the contribution of the final $50,000 needed to fully fund a total project cost of $173,000 because a binding construction bid was set to expire Friday. Babe Ruth League officials present at the meeting expressed concern that, given current skyrocketing increases in the prices of construction materials, failure to fully fund the project this week could result in substantially higher costs.

Organizations awarded ARPA funds are considered subrecipients under the authorizing federal legislation and so must follow all the same documentation requirements and are subject to the same audits as City of Elkins. If auditors were to find that a project was not eligible for ARPA funds, the federal government could require repayment.

For more information about the city’s ARPA award, including amounts allocated to date, see: www.cityofelkinswv.com/arpa-funds.

Update Concerning Elkins-Randolph County Public Library

Jennifer Morgan, chairwoman of the Elkins-Randolph County Public Library Board of Trustees, has supplied the following update concerning the library’s next steps after the recent water damage:

We are very pleased to have secured temporary office space downtown to meet the needs of our downtown patrons. To be specific, we have leased the old office of T.R. Ross, which sits next to the Episcopal Church at 324 Randolph Avenue. At this location, we will be able to offer computer services, print/copy/fax services, and limited tutoring/meeting space. We also hope that we can offer books, but this will be done in conjunction with our Beverly Branch. With 24-48 hours notice, we will bring requested books from Beverly to Elkins for patrons. Although on a smaller scale, we are hoping that this location will meet the needs of our in town patrons until we can get our library back up and running.

As for our future plans, we are taking this opportunity to expand our current library. We have been working with an architect to design a space at our current location. We are adding a second story to provide much needed additional space. Our new facility will have multiple tutoring rooms, meeting rooms and conference rooms, more computers and a revamped children’s area. We will have a large classroom attached to a full kitchen so that meetings can enjoy refreshments or cooking classes can be held. The Friends of the Library group will have a dedicated office. We are still working out the details, but this will be such a wonderful rebuild for the entire Elkins/Randolph County community.

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