Not having clean drinking water is a big issue, and some Preston County residents who previously thought it would no longer be a problem are quickly realizing it might not happen.
Preston County Public Service District (PSD) No. 4 sent a letter just a few weeks ago explaining an Abandoned Mine Land (AML) waterline project would not be fully funded. That leaves about 300 households who previously thought they'd finally get running city water hanging out to dry.
"They just basically said we're not funding it anymore. We were told that there was a commitment letter from the Office of Surface Mining that was given to the Preston County Public Service Department that said they would go through with this project," said Dan Olthaus, a Hazelton resident. "Now that the project has been bid out and awarded to the construction, what kind of damage is there to the contractor that has the contract now, the people that are working on the contract now; it's a pretty big issue out here."
An issue that involves a lot of people. More than 400 households were set to have city water hooked up through the AML grant and that's down to 100. All of the residents have already paid a $160.00 tapping fee.
But The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) returned a letter to one Preston County resident asking about the problem, stating it had never entered into a binding commitment to fund the project.
The OSMRE said it cannot fund any project the Abandoned Land Mine Fund does not approve. For water lines, that is any mining activity that happened after 1977.
Olthaus is the president of the Hazel View Homeowners Association. He has a high iron content in his well and spent more than $3,000 on a purification system. He's only one of many people that will have to continue to deal with this issue.
"We actually have to chemically treat the water, it goes into a holding tank, the holding tank allows the water to sit, and then it goes through a filtration system," said Olthaus. "There are people in this plan that don't have wells that weren't successful in getting water."
PSD No. 4 said it's still trying to get the OSMRE to change it's mind. However, in the letter sent to the resident the office also states it never enters into binding commitments for funding of any type of AML project. The authorization only goes through after the project is fully designed.
Residents are sending letters to their elected representatives representatives to try to get help.