CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Pratt Mayor Gary Fields asked residents in his town, and the surrounding area, to conserve water after finding a low level in the town's water tank on Wednesday.Fields said keeping water in the tank is a continuing problem for the town's troubled water system. He asked residents in Pratt, Hansford, Paint Creek and Crown Hill to use water only if necessary and said he would issue a boil-water advisory if it's required Wednesday evening.At about 1 p.m. Wednesday, a neighbor called Fields to complain about low water pressure. Fields then discovered the water pressure in the town hall restroom also was low.Fields said whenever the nearby Kanawha River is high, the town's water system switches from a raw water intake pump to a portable water intake pump.By Wednesday, that pump had not been switched and enough water hadn't been filtered into the town's water tank. Fields said operators tried to switch the pumps Saturday but it kicked the breaker off.Operators would pump water most of Wednesday night and Thursday morning to fill the tank up again, he said.Usually water operators are OK leaving their shift at 7 p.m. and returning the next day at 4 p.m. Fields said he would investigate to find out how much water was measured in the tank when the operator left work Tuesday night.West Virginia American Water Co. had been notified and it is running the portable intake pump, he said. The town has previously asked the water company to take over the town's water plant, which provides service to about 750 people.
"I'll be one tickled man when we get this water situation figured out," Fields said.Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said he met with West Virginia American Water officials last week and the ball is now in their court. If the company makes a proposal to buy the town's water plant, it would then be put up for a vote for Pratt residents to decide. The County Commission has set aside money to pay for attorney and legal fees and money for the election, Carper said.The water company is private and is regulated by the state Public Service Commission.Carper said he's been hammering Pratt to give up its troubled water plant for more than a decade. The county pays for some of the water treatment chemicals and is making payments on an employment bill the town owes, he said. West Virginia American Water already buys water from the town of Pratt to serve customers in the Paint Creek area.In June, residents received notices that the level of haloacetic acids in their drinking water had exceeded federal limits for more than a year. The average level of acids in the water averaged about 66 parts per billion over a series of four quarterly samples, but haloacetic acid levels had been as high as 110 parts per billion. Federal limits on the acid levels are 60 parts per billion.In October, an audit of the town's government revealed the water plant was $375,000 in debt."They are listening to me now because they don't have a choice," Carper said.
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