PARKERSBURG - The Parkersburg Utility Board is in early talks with the city of Vienna and the Claywood Park Public Service District about linking water systems to provide service in an emergency.
The utility board, a standalone entity that relies on Parkersburg City Council to approve its rates, provides sewer service to Vienna, but is not connected to the city for water service, said Eric Bennett, utility board manager.
The board is reviewing a draft engineering agreement with Burgess and Niple to determine how much water would be needed and where the connection would be made, Bennett said.
The cost of the study, which is expected to be completed this year, would be shared by the PUB and Vienna, he said.
Bennett said state legislation in the wake of a Jan. 9 chemical leak that contaminated water for 300,000 West Virginians in nine counties will likely "require communities to have an alternate source of water."
The connection between Parkersburg and Vienna was being discussed even before that incident, Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp said.
"I just think it's a good insurance policy," he said. "You never know when one of those emergencies is going to show up."
The link could also provide an opportunity for the utility board to expand its customer base, Bennett said.
"We have always been interested in selling Vienna water, and this may be a stepping stone to that," he said. "In the end, I think it would provide Vienna with a more reliable source of water without them having to deal with pumps and wells."
Rapp said that could be a possibility down the road, but for now he's satisfied with the city maintaining its own water system, which draws groundwater from wells on Ninth, 34th and 60th streets.
The Claywood Park Public Service District serves more than 7,000 customers in Wood and Wirt counties with water drawn from the Little Kanawha River. If the river became contaminated, the plant, which runs eight hours a day, could temporarily be shut down. If the contamination persisted, the district has the capability to connect to the utility board system with pipes over land, general manager Todd Grinstead said.
"We do have a plan, but we want to update and enhance it," he said.
It's uncertain how much water the temporary link would provide, Grinstead said.
Grinstead said he and district employees are gathering information on how much water they could draw and where they could attach to the utility board water lines.
"It would be an alternate source that you could rely on for 'x' amount of gallons," he said.
How the other entities would pay for water from the city of Parkersburg in an emergency has yet to be determined. Bennett said it could be based on the regular rate, a special rate for those circumstances or contracts between the entities involved.
While the Parkersburg Utility Board system is larger than Vienna's or Claywood Park's, the connections could also help the PUB out in a pinch, Bennett said. Parkersburg lines are already connected with the Lubeck and Mineral Wells public service districts.
"Lubeck can easily feed our Marrtown area," Bennett said.
If Parkersburg's groundwater wells were contaminated, the utility board can draw water from the Ohio River, assuming it was not affected.