Sewer Plant: "One Site" and "Tour of Sharps Cave"
6 posts
4 users
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March 7, 2007
Member since 09/28/2006 🔗
52 posts
Hi folks,

Two important updates:

1) WVMR 1370 AM Allegheny Mountain Radio report on PSD meeting.
2) Tour of Sharps Cave.

Last Tuesday, February 27, the Pocahontas Public Service District (PSD) held their public meeting. In that meeting, the PSD effectively said that there are no longer 2 alternate sites, but just 1. I asked them about this development. Heather Dooley of WVMR gives her report:

Part of the controversial sewer plant project is a main sewer pipeline that would run for several miles over karst terrain. What many do not know is that under route is Sharps Cave. Any leaks or failures of this pipe would have immediate consequences.

In illustrating the great risk, I am pleased to announce that Eight Rivers Safe Development has finished a wonderful 37 slide Tour of Sharps Cave. This cave is no small cave, and the tour shows Sharps Cave to be nothing short of stunning:


Okay, thanks and take care. As always, feel free to email questions to me at [Email][/Email] :-)

The Colonel - DCSki Supporter 
March 7, 2007
Member since 03/5/2004 🔗
3,110 posts
I really enjoyed the pictures. How did the dog get to the bottom of the cave, carried or able to walk on all fours by him(her)self?
The Colonel
March 8, 2007
Member since 03/11/2004 🔗
144 posts
Dave - It is interesting that another unwilling seller's property is off limits. I guess they've put too much effort into the Sharp Farm to go back and call it off limits as well. With the state land - you still have the issue of running that pipeline down from SS across the cave/karst area. Is there any possibility at this point that SS would just build the thing on thier own land and ideally use the latest technology to upgrade existing facilities, etc? My understanding was that SS orginally wanted to do that - but some other area developers forced it into the public domain. Do you think those same non-SS developers would still fight to make it public? Also - how do you weigh the risk of the many septic systems in the area potentially failing vs. the risk of the main pipeline failing? Thanks
March 8, 2007
Member since 09/28/2006 🔗
52 posts
Hi "The Colonel", yeah, the dog is outrageous. I have no idea. Probably carried it down in to get it started.?.?

March 8, 2007
Member since 09/28/2006 🔗
52 posts

Your understanding is on track, but not complete. Snowshoe's plan was to build another treatment plant at the bottom for the Hawthorne subdivision only; not to treat the mountain. It was a small waste load allocation. I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but this is true: Snowshoe, daily, trucks raw sewage from Hawthorne at the bottom, up the mountain, and pumps it into a manhole of the mountain's sewage system. So there is no doubt Snowshoe has problems.

Anyway, Snowshoe withdrew their application for this smaller plant. Pressure from other developers was a factor.

Many septic systems are better than one for the unique geography and economics of this area, in my opinion. The West Virginia Rivers Coalition recommends the use (page 29) of "cluster" systems for "small communities" (such as in the Slatyfork area). These employ individual septic tanks but fewer treatment/leach fields; i.e. many tanks go to one field.

This is better because in leach fields, effluent is dissipated into the soil over a large area. The amount of effluent for each treatment field would be far less than the centralized plan's allocation of 1.5 million gallons per day. Far less. Moreover, soil is a better natural filtration mechanism for effluent than is simply piping it all into a river. A very precious river, the Elk, I might add.

Also, having many points (i.e. septic tanks) is better than having one point for this situation. Septic tanks are very reliable, and when one has a problem, it won't bring the whole "system" down. A failure of the centralized plant and/or its miles-long pipe would be major, possibly catastrophic.

The cluster approach also puts the financial burden where it belongs: on the homeowner/association.

Finally, the utilization of immersed membranes could retrofit Snowshoe's existing system specifically and get them back to compliance with room to grow. Other ski resorts have in fact done this.

So that's what we need. For Snowshoe to take their system to the "next level," and for Slatyfork's future development to embrace cluster systems. This is the best way to preserve the valley, the rivers/forks, and distribute the bill.

Thanks for asking, I'm glad you did. :-)

March 9, 2007
Member since 09/19/2006 🔗
14 posts
The myth that Snowshoe "originally wanted to upgrade" its existing facilities - "but some other area developers forced it into the public domain" continues on with no basis in fact.

In about 2002, the resort company ownership was being sued by the WVDEP for multiple violations of the operation of their sewer utilities. In the midst of this lawsuit Snowshoe proposed to build a tiny 90,000-gallon per day for their new development at the base of the mountain.

There were several intervenors, some developers and some Snowshoe Property Owners Association members. The developers complained that Snowshoe was hogging all of the available wasteload allocation and, therefore, prohibiting their opportunity to develop. The homeowners (as they are doing in this case as well (see below for quote from SPOC's website) protested that they were being made to pay (through increased monthly rates) for the new development by the ski resort company at the base of the mountain, i.e. a new sewer plant at the base of the mountain that would not serve the homeowners on top of the mountain.

The proponents for the proposed 'regional' sewer project perpetuate the myth that Snowshoe claimed 90% of the wasteload allocation. That is true. They did claim 90%. But the 90% they were claiming was of the measly 90,000 gallon per day allocation that they requested from the WVDEP. Snowshoe was offered between 800,000 and 1 million gallons per day by the WVDEP, but they chose to stay with the 90,000.

So the developers claiming that ALL of the available wasteload allocation would have been taken by the resort is just not true, yet somehow this was the basis for the officials to sell the idea of a regional project.

Had the developers requested it, up to 910,000 gallons per day was available. Problem is, they would have had to finance the initial construction of their infrastructure. With the new project, the taxpayers pay.

The Snowshoe Property Owners Council claims Snowshoe withdrew their application for their plant to serve their new development at the base of the mountain because of them, not from pressure by the developers.

Now, despite protests from almost every single potential customer, from the Snowshoe's own homeowners to homeowners associations in the valley, the idea of a sewer plant in Slatyfork, miles and miles away form the source of the sewage, is still being pushed. The given excuse is that the valley won't be able to develop if Snowshoe upgrades their existing plant with state of the art technology (far cheaper than the 20 million for this project). Not true. In fact, 90% or more of the water to be used by Snowshoe for the new regional sewer will come from the dammed up Shavers Fork River on the other side of the mountain. If the treated effluent were simply returned to its place of origin, preventing interbasin transfer (never a good thing for the environment), then the entire wasteload from Snowshoe could be credited or applied to the Shavers Fork watershed allocation. This would free up millions and millions of gallons of wasteload allocation for the Elk River watershed in the valley.

It is relatively simple and inexpensive to pipe water (effluent) from the Snowshoe plant over to the other side of the mountain to return the water to its source. Also, since Shavers Fork is a giant lake at its headwaters, there would be a constant supply of water in the river to comply with Federal Clean Water Act 'mixing zone' requirements. The Big Spring Fork is a dry river most of the year (flows underground) and even the springs (from which the river gets its name) dry up to the point that the entire river runs dry. That is aproblem for the proper discharge requirements to be followed.

State of the art membrane 'clusters' could be installed as needed where needed in the valley by the developers. They are relatively inexpensive and could be paid for with the sale of the first house or so. There is also the advantage that this new technology does not require connection to a 'grid' or, in this case, miles and miles of pipe through fragile, karst terrain.

This would be a win, win situation for everyone. If the resort company doesn't want to own up to their responsibilities to provide infrastructure and waste treatment to their homeowners, the local Public Service District could simply take over their existing plant and operate it. Snowshoe gets what they want, the developers will have plenty of wasteload for developing in the valley and the health and safety of the community will not be endangered by subjecting it to millions and millions of gallons of raw sewage from the top of the mountain being pumped through miles and miles of karst in the valley.

(From SPOC website)
"First, your sewer rates will increase by as much as 300 to 500% according to proposed rate increases by the Public Service District. Therefore, individual homeowner rates could possibly increase from the current range of $10-$17 per month to $54-$112. The question is, why should the approximately 1,800 mountain top property owners be asked to fund a sewage treatment plant when the current one serves our needs just fine? In fact, it seems we have excess capacity since Snowshoe regularly pumps out a sewage storage tank which serves the homes in The Hawthorne subdivision at the base of the mountain and trucks it up to the top and discharges it into the sewer lines there.
So, the question may be why a new sewer plant is needed? The answer is that no further development can occur unless the sewer capacity problem is corrected, and this means building a new plant. It is generally accepted that current homeowners should not bear the burden of such a sewer facility in order to enhance development. "

Ski and Tell

Speak truth to powder.

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