By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
PIEDMONT - The Piedmont City Council will once again be discussing options for a water source when they meet in regular session at noon Wednesday in the city building.
Piedmont has been struggling with which direction to turn for water ever since Verso Corporation announced it would cease pumping water from the closed Luke mill across the bridge into Piedmont as of July 18.
On June 17, water commissioner Greg Harvey gave a Powerpoint presentation on the various options just prior to that evening’s council meeting, and expressed his opinion that the town’s only viable option is to purchase water from the Town of Westernport.
According to Harvey, Verso would split the cost of hooking up to Westernport with the $1.5 million grant which Piedmont is slated to receive from the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
"The cost is $1.9 million," he said, explaining that the new water line would come off Maryland Avenue in Westernport and cross the Potomac River into Piedmont.
"It would be a six-inch line, and no pumps are needed," he said.
Harvey said he feels the other options, including pumping water down from a former intake in Savage River and constructing an intake near the low-water dam behind the Luke mill, are not feasible or affordable for Piedmont.
"It’s been over 25 years since water came down from Savage to Piedmont," he said, adding that the "river is only eight inches deep in front of the intake because the dam’s been breached.
"We would have to set the pump system back up," he said.
As for the proposed intake behind the mill, which Harvey said Verso seemed to favor, it would involve the Town of Piedmont accepting responsibility for the maintenance of the low water dam.
"The mill wants no part of it (the low-water dam) and I want no part of it," he said. "If something happens, we’d be bankrupt."
If Piedmont buys its water off Westernport, however, Harvey said, "they’ve got all the liability."
According to Harvey, Piedmont has 271 water customers, and Piedmont would be paying Westernport approximately $7,000 for the water to serve them.
Another related issue facing Piedmont is the proposed water rate increase, which is currently on hold until the West Virginia Public Service Commission conducts a hearing in July.
Harvey told the residents present for the June 17 meeting that the rate increase has nothing to do with where Piedmont decides to get its water.
Wednesday’s meeting gets underway at noon. Other items on the agenda include city vehicles and parks and recreation.
The meeting is open to the public.