UPDATE: Neighbors Label Utilities Battle as "Sewer-Gate"

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UPDATE 8/1/14 @ 10 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Neighbors in Huntington echoed similar complaints over their sewage system to what we first reported on Thursday night.

A community in Salt Rock says they're not getting the service they've paid for.

It turns out the owner of that plant is facing similar accusations involving a plant he operates in Huntington, as well.

"Valves are rusted shut,” neighbor Charles Carroll said. “Pipes are completely not functioning at all. There are all kinds of things wrong here."

Folks living near the Clark Estates sewage treatment plant say for years, their sewer bills have, essentially, gone to waste, so some have quit paying.

"We decided to quit paying him because basically all we're doing is giving him money to live on, and he's not doing anything with the plant," Carroll said.

"A lot of people are concerned about the property value," neighbor Maria Summers said.

The plant serves about 20 homes off Estate Drive near Altizer.

The man who runs the plant is the same man we talked with Thursday night. Alva Vance also owns and operates a plant in Holiday Park in Salt Rock, where residents also accuse Vance of not doing his job.

Vance says if he doesn’t do his job correctly, he is the one who pays the price.

“If it's not run right, it costs me,” Vance said. “The DEP fines me, and I have to pay more."

Vance says he got behind on his duties this year because he had open heart surgery.

"I have an open wound,” he said Thursday night. “I can't be down there in that stuff."

Vance says when customers fail to pay, it's impossible to make repairs.

However, neighbors say the problems go back years.

"We've talked to every government agency we can,” Carroll said. “They just run us in circles."

Some neighbors want to see their community gain ownership of that sewage plant and get a new operator.

Vance maintains the problems at the plant in Huntington are over exaggerated.

The Public Service Commission says they don’t have the authority to regulate plants that serve less than 25 customers.

Some neighbors want to see their community gain ownership of that sewage plant and get a new operator.

Vance says he may enlist his son to help with repairs.



ORIGINAL STORY 7/31/14 @ 11 p.m.
SALT ROCK, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Residents are complaining an aging sewage system has not been properly managed, causing a strong odor to permeate through their neighborhood.

The DEP, Cabell Huntington Health Department, and Public Service Commission have been looking into the case.

Neighbors in Holiday Park in Salt Rock say they can only pinch their noses so long.

“It's giving me migraine headaches,” Butch Keeney said. “I have to shut all my windows because you can't stand the smell."

They've formally complained to the PSC saying the man who took over their sewage treatment plant 7 years ago, Alva Vance, has not held up his end of the bargain.

Raw sewage has been running into a nearby stream, and they want someone held accountable.

In a report, the PSC says repairs to failed equipment would cost thousands.

"(Vance) has no problem billing,” neighbor Pat Sharp said. “He has a problem unlocking the gate and coming down here and doing something."

Vance says he had open heart surgery in May, temporarily preventing him from doing his job.

However, he says customers haven't paid bills in two months, handicapping him from fixing the numerous problems.

"I have no money to do anything with right now,” Vance said. “There's not a dime in the account. What I had was spent there."

In a true catch 22, neighbors say why pay for a service they're not getting?

Vance maintains, in his opinion, the odor problem is overblown.

"They talk about odor,” Vance, who lives in Branchland, said. “Maybe my smell is messed up, but every time I'm out there, I don't smell nothing."

For now, the PSC says they and the DEP are working with Vance on getting the plant back operating how it should be.

"We don't want large quantities of sewage going into the river," Karen Hall-Dundas with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department said. "It's not a good thing."

The plant has been there since the early 70's when Holiday Park used to be campground site before it became a housing development. The PSC says long-term, the plant should to be replaced.

A judge will make a ruling on the case by the end of December to determine what happens with that facility moving forward.

Here is the link to the PSC’s report:
http://www.psc.state.wv.us/scripts/WebDocket/ViewDocument.cfm?CaseActivityID=399939&NotType=%27WebDocket


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