After Raleigh County water crisis, leaders meet for post-action review

After water crisis, Raleigh County leaders meet for post-action review
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 2:13 PM EST
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BEAVER, W.Va. (WVVA) - Key stakeholders in the Raleigh County water crisis met at the 911 Center on Wednesday for a post-action review. Representatives from the Beckley Water Company, Raleigh County Public Service Districts, 911 Center, and county officials were all on hand to participate and discuss the plan moving forward.

WVVA News spoke with Raleigh County Commissioner Greg Duckworth following the meeting. With the freezing cold temperatures over Christmas and a lot of people traveling, he described the crisis as the perfect storm of conditions that led to a large number of customers with unrecognized leaks. The leaks drained several water tanks across the county, creaking a ripple effect that led to as many as 10,000 people without water.

Some of the key takeaways from the meeting, he said, include a need for better communication next time -- from the first signs of cold weather and the need for people to check for leaks to communicating the problems to the public.

“Think of it like a patient. The heart was the Beckley Water Company. The extremities started bleeding and they had to shut water down until they could put tourniquets back on and get the tanks filled up around the county. The takeaway was mainly communication.”

Duckworth also brought up the possibility of additional public service announcements when anticipating frozen pipes.

“The PSDs, the Beckley Water Company, everyone is on board to correct things so that this doesn’t happen again. Fixing leaks, securing leaks, folks taking care of their home when the weather gets down below zero. There were a lot of trailers that didn’t have underpinnings. Water froze and ran for days. It’s learning from the past so that it doesn’t happen again. "

Since the start of the crisis, Beckley Water representatives maintained that customer leaks were largely to blame for the crisis. While some customers started to experience water loss as early as December 24th, Raleigh County residents were not notified to check for leaks until December 27th.

To prevent this problem in the future, the Raleigh County Commission is moving forward on a plan to build an independent water source in Fairdale, W.Va.