Buckhannon RiverFest celebrates clean water and healthy recreation
Elizabeth J. “Binky” Poundstone River Walk Trail, Buckhannon, WV – August 31, 2019 – 1:00 p.m.
Mayor David McCauley:
Good afternoon ladies & gentlemen, what a gorgeous day amid this most serene of venues. I’m David McCauley, Mayor of Buckhannon, & it’s my pleasure & honor to again welcome you all to our third annual River Fest, right here beside our beloved Buckhannon River. You can just imagine Buckongahelas himself climbing into a canoe & paddling downstream toward Pringle Tree. At the outset, I think we all need to give April Keating a huge hand, because this celebration of our water never would’ve happened without April’s commitment to starting this event three-plus years ago. Thanks, April!
Our Buckhannon water supply is in good shape. Our City through its Water Board has furthered several, protective initiatives during the past year, including installation of the first of two early warning monitoring stations upstream that when fully operative will alert our plant so that the intake at our water plant may be closed to avoid contamination of our drinking water. These state-of-the-art stations offer exceptional protection for our water supply & our citizenry.
Buckhannon is working closely with Upshur County Health Department sanitarian, Chris Garrett, to better police three, long recurring problematic practices that introduce pollutants into our tributaries that ultimately end up in our river. These practices that we’re now better getting the word out about & policing include- (1) straight piping of raw, untreated sewage into tributaries; (2) failed or failing septic systems that result in seepage of pollutants into our water table; and (3) livestock that are permitted free access to streams depositing their raw waste into our tributaries. All of these practices have long been prohibited by law, yet too often have gone unaddressed by the State and have largely been unabated. We thank Dr. Paul Richter who this past year brought these issues to our attention, & we thank Chris Garrett who’s working hard & partnering with our City to make us all safer. We all need to be more vigilant in our insistence that these harmful practices be addressed by our State.
Another positive development is our City’s more vigilant practice of requiring installation of commercial, backflow inhibitors throughout our water system that will neutralize the dangers posed by pollutants, especially from businesses, being introduced through pollutants back-flowing from such things as hoses & sinks back into our potable water system. Pollutants don’t come exclusively from our source water, & we are challenged both externally & internally, in keep our precious, drinking water safe.
Last year, we dedicated our second 1.2 million gallon water storage tank atop Victoria Hill. With the near simultaneous, decommissioning of the 600,000 gallon St. Joseph’s tank, we gained 600,000 gallons in potable water for our community. City engineer Jay Hollen is exploring the establishment of a comprehensive, raw water storage system, possibly through a series of tanks, or a reservoir that might double for recreation purposes. If our river somehow came to be contaminated, this raw water storage system could add days or even weeks to our potable, water supply. We recently completed two million dollars worth of improvements to our water plant that we expect will serve us well for many more years to come. Kelly Arnold & his guys, both at our water plant & our line crews have all worked hard to realize these critical infrastructure benefits.
Our City continues to seek improvements by our outlying public service districts to reduce water loss. We’ve observed that in some outlying areas, for every gallon of water delivered by Buckhannon, as much as a half gallon of precious, potable water seeps into the ground, wasted. This is not a sustainable model, & our state & federal governments must establish funding to improve this essential infrastructure problem. Funding continues to be made available for extensions of already failing systems, yet government funding for repairing leaking systems created nearly a half century ago during the 1970s is virtually non-existent. Collectively, we all need to issue a wakeup call to Charleston & D.C., insisting upon allocation of critical funding to fix our aging water systems. Please contact your representatives demanding better.
I would be remiss if I failed to observe the importance of our state-of-the-art sewer plant operations that make us better stewards of water for the folks downstream from us. Opened in 1987 with then an expected life of 30-40 years, because of people like Sam Ludlow & Buck Samples, our sewer plant has an expected life of another 40 years in 2019. The people of Philippi & beyond appreciate our diligent practices in protecting our river & their drinking water.
Finally, & in case you were wondering how Buckhannon compares to other water providers throughout West Virginia, just this morning I checked the water utility rankings in our State as published by the WV Public Service Commission, & of the current 370 water providers in our state, Buckhannon ranks as the #38 most affordable water provider. This means that 89.7% of the water users in WV pay more for their water than we do in our Buckhannon water system. Not only do we have an excellent water system, but we deliver our water very efficiently & affordably. We’re all indebted to the superior operations of our Water Department!
Thanks to everyone for attending today’s third River Fest. Let us all remain vigilant in protecting our source water. Please enjoy the rest of your Labor Day weekend in our beautiful, fun-filled community of Buckhannon!