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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Historical Underpinnings of the Problem of Raw Sewage in Pocahontas.

Greenbrier River
At Hinton, New River receives an enormous amount of pollution from Greenbrier
, an important tributary, on which the conditions are very unfortunate. It is one of
the most beautiful streams in the State, the water almost always being very clear, but it is
poisoned at its very source by privy contamination.

Durbin, W. Va.—Above Durbin, on the headwaters of the stream, there are a great many
sawmills. Sanitation in these mill camps consists in building the privies directly over the
river and in throwing all waste and refuse either into the stream or on the ground near bv.
sr> that they can be washed into the water. At Durbin fecal pollution is nauseatingly
abundant on the banks. The railroad privy is so located as to discharge into the river, and
a number of the houses drain almost directly into a small run that enters the river at this
point. More heedless contamination of a pure and beautiful river could hardly he
imagined. Tb field assay (p. 95) shows a water of almost perfect purity, its high color
being the only objectionable feature. The water of the 84-foot well at this pla«> is of fair
quality, not too hard for laundry use.

Marlinton, W. Va.—Between Durhin und Marlinton the contamination from mill camps
is as bad as above Durbin. Marlinton, the largest hamlet in this section, is a pretty ami
rapidly growing lumber town of about 500 population.It has no public water supply.
Green brier River at this point shows an increase in hardness, but is still a very soft water.
The pollution at Marlinton from outhouses is considerable. The quasi public supply is
piped into the railroad tank, and thence into a few buildings, from Knapp Creek, a little
trout stream, comparatively clean and pure. The field assay shows the Knapp Creek water
to be of excellent quality for any purpose. Still better is the water of the large spring that
is piped to two banks and a boarding house in the town. There is practically no mineral
impurity in this water except the iron. The high color is probably due to the nature of the
drainage. It is the best supply in this section.

Ronceverte, W. Va.—Between Marlinton and Ronceverte (population about 1,000)
there is a scanty population and but little drainage from houses. It is unfortunate,
however, that at almost every place where there is a house a privy either overhangs the
stream or stands close to it. The Ronceverte water supply is pumped directly from
Greenbrier River into a reservoir, whence it flows by gravity into the mains, it is used
unpurified for all purposes, and the townspeople regard it as pure water, because there are
no houses directly above the intake. In the light of the above discussion of Allegheny and
Monongahela rivers it is plain that self-purification in this stream is a negligible factor.
While by no means an unusually rapid stream, it is too small for navigation, and its
occasional pools are separated by numerous stretches of swift water. It is so grossly
polluted from its very source to a point a mile or two above the pumping station as to
leave no doubt of its unhealthfulness when used raw as a public supply. Ronceverte is not
sewered, and its drainage and that of the railroad shops at this point form an important
contribution to the river.


The seceretary received from His Excellency, Governor Hatfield, the following letter
with an inclosure from Mr. C. E. Beman, of Ron- ceverte:

Charleston, "W. Va., June 5, 1914. Dear Dr. Jepson: —

Please note the enclosed letter. I will be very glad if you will communicate with Mr.
Beman and also investigate the conditions of tke water supply at Ronceverte, either
through your nearest member of the State Board of Health or yourself direct if you find
the time.
Very truly yours,

Mr. Beman's letter set forth that "there is one tannery at Marlinton and one at Durbin.
Here at Ronceverte, where we get our water supply from the river, the water is so sour it
is almost impossible to drink it. The banks are lined with dead fish from here to Durbin."
It is a matter of record that the State Board of Health had this subject under consideration
some years ago, and it was made the subject of a hearing on indictment in the circuit
court. The result of the trial was, that the tannery company at Marlinton was required to
construct settling ponds which it was supposed would remedy the offenses complained
of. The secretary has received from the assistant attorney general the oral opinion that the
State Board of Health under the law does not have sufficient authority to effect a remedy
of the conditions complained of. In view of this fact the secretary wrote a letter to the
Governor from which the following quotation is made; "During my last visit in
Charleston I had a consultation on this subject with Mr. Lively of the attorney general's
office, and he gave the opinion that the State Board of Health has not sufficient authority
to control the matter. This being the case, a visit by me or any member of the board to
Ronceverte seems unnecessary, since no good can be accomplished by it. I find, since
becoming secretary of the board, that we need much more authority than is now given to
us under the law. I have been summoned to different points on complaint of local
nuisances that should be abated by the local county or municipal authorities, and a careful
search through the law fails to discover authority whereby we may step in and compel an
abatement of such nuisances. There should be such authority."
The secretary has received communications from Cameron, Beckley, Holliday's Cove,
Keyser, Logan, Spencer, Cass and other points in the state. The complaints being
essentially the same, namely; the emptying of sewage into small local streams which
become almost dry in the summer constituting nuisances. The secretary has uniformly
attempted by correspondence to have such defects remedied, but generally he finds it
impossible to do so on account of the limited powers of the board, and because, in some
cases, nothing short of an extensive sewerage system involving the locality in a large
expenditure would be sufficient to bring about the desired change. Many complaints of a
less serious nature reach us, which refer to nuisances of a character that can and should
be removed by local, county or municipal authority. This suggestion the secretary has
repeatedly made in answer to letters received by him. As an example of nuisances of this
kind, may be cited the fact that the secretary made a special visit to Clarksburg in answer
to a complaint made of a local nuisance, which consisted of an offensive pond of sewage
caused by the projection of several sewers from private houses into a low piece ot ground
from which there was no drainage. Within ten feet of the end of these drain pipes was a
large sewer with which connection might have been made at trifling cost. The mayor of
the city was interviewed, the remedy pointed out, and His Honor gave promise that an
order would be immediately issued for the abatement of the nuisance. We have
information that the desired change has been effected.

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