After 15 years and dozens of water pollution violations, construction of a new Snowshoe area wastewater system is on-track to begin early this summer.
During its regular meeting at the Linwood Library on Monday afternoon, the Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) board reviewed bids and selected contractors to build the three phases of the project – the wastewater plant, the pump stations and the collection system. Board member Amon Tracey is recovering from a sudden illness and was not present.
A total of eight contractors submitted bids for the three project phases. Engineer Chris Lupia, with PSD contract engineering firm WWMI, presented a letter from WWMI President David Rigby, certifying the bids and recommending that the board accept the three apparent low bids. The board followed the engineer’s advice.
Nitro construction company Pipe Plus, Inc., was selected for construction of the pump stations ($2,925,224) and collection system ($5,558,396), at a combined cost of $8,483,620. St. Albans-based Orders Construction Company, Inc., was selected to build the wastewater plant, at a cost of $12,572,000.
The combined low bids totaled $21,055,620, exceeding the PSD’s projected project cost by approximately $450,000, but within range to be covered by an estimated $700,000 in contingency funds. The total project cost exceeds $27 million.
Other contractors bidding for work on the project were Pro Contracting, D&M Contracting, W.C. English, Upton Construction, Ulliman Schutte Construction and Shook Construction.
During years of debate over the wastewater issue, many local residents and sportsmen from around the state insisted that the headwaters of the Elk River below Snowshoe be protected from contamination. The PSD board responded to the public input and included membrane biological reactor (MBR) technology into the plant design, despite its higher cost. The MBR process produces very clean effluent water.
The project has a long and troubled history.
In 2003, after the West Virginia Department of Environmental (DEP) issued several water pollution citations against Snowshoe Mountain’s private sewage utility, the resort announced plans to build a small wastewater plant at Hawthorne Loop. Years of litigation followed as developers demanded a larger plant to serve Snowshoe and the surrounding valley community.
Along with various stakeholders, Snowshoe Mountain, the DEP, the PSC and the PSD developed a plan for the PSD to build a regional plant in the Linwood area. More years of litigation followed over the location of the new plant. In October 2008, the PSD accepted ownership of Snowshoe Mountain’s sewage system. Under a complex transfer agreement, Snowshoe agreed to contribute $2 million worth of assets in lieu of paying fines to the DEP.
In 2010, the DEP sued the PSD in Pocahontas County Circuit Court, seeking injunctive relief because the PSD was violating the West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act. The DEP alleged environmental discharge violations at the PSD’s plants at Snowshoe Village, the Inn at Snowshoe and Silver Creek. The DEP is seeking civil penalties against the PSD not to exceed $25,000 a day for each violation. The lawsuit is still pending, but completion of the wastewater system likely will resolve the issue for the DEP.