Marlinton is not the only community experiencing water problems due to recent abnormally cold weather. Sustained sub-zero temperatures caused malfunctions and line breaks that have kept town crews and contractors working overtime – here and across the state.
Rural Water Association circuit rider Bertis McCarty provides expert water system assistance to communities in 18 counties, including Pocahontas County. McCarty said he and his fellow circuit riders have received a higher than normal amount of emergency calls due to the cold weather.
“Empty tanks, broken lines and a lot of other problems,” he said.
McCarty said the ground has been freezing deeper in Pocahontas County than in other parts of the state. One unusual problem he encountered while working in Marlinton was an “ice cap” that formed inside a water tank. As the water level went up and down in the tank, a crust of ice formed and expanded, freezing up the water level indicator. McCarty said bitter cold weather not only causes water system problems, it makes it very difficult for workers to make repairs.
Marlinton Mayor Joe Smith said on Monday that town crews have been working diligently to fix problems in the water system.
“The leak at Dorie’s was a six-inch line that was 100 percent ruptured and we got it repaired,” he said. “We repaired lines out in the Brush Country. We repaired leaks throughout the town. On Friday, I think they repaired four here in town – a lot of them small leaks, but they add up. They’re working overtime, up until darkness.”
A local contractor was hired to help repair leaks.
“We’ve got Johnny Moore helping us,” Smith said. “Simply because he’s very knowledgeable about water and he has equipment that we don’t have. The big thing is he has a track-hoe; ours is a rubber-wheeled backhoe. It’s heavier duty and it can do more. With this ground frozen, our backhoe doesn’t hardly budge it.”
The mayor expected the local conserve and boil water advisory to be lifted by the end of the week. But he warned that the change in seasons might not be the end of water system issues.
“The ground, right now in Marlinton, is frozen 24 inches deep,” he said. “That’s how deep it was down behind Dorie’s, so there’s no reason to think it’s much less or any more anyplace else. I would almost say we haven’t seen the worst of it yet, because when we start getting a good thaw, I think we’re going to see a lot of leaks come to the surface.”
Anyone who loses water service can fill up containers, free of charge, at the town water plant. The mayor said he appreciates the understanding of water customers during the crisis.
“It’s very frustrating, but town residents have been very considerate during this period of water problems,” he said.