CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha County Commission and West Virginia American Water announced Monday that they will coordinate efforts to upgrade the water system in the town of Pratt, whose plant also provides water to nearby Hansford and towns on Paint Creek.The project is scheduled to begin in May and be completed by December.But it must first receive approval from residents of Pratt and from the state Public Service Commission."West Virginia American Water needs to be applauded," Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said at a Monday-morning news conference. "Pratt will now get the same quality of water that Charleston and other areas in Kanawha County do."The town's water plant provides service to about 750 Pratt residents. The changes also will benefit 350 students attending schools in Pratt.Hardy said the new system will have a "projected life of 80 years."Jeff McIntyre, president of West Virginia American Water, said his company has a "proud history" of replacing and improving aging water plants."This project will help 450 households in Pratt and the Upper Kanawha Valley," McIntyre said.Pratt Mayor Gary Pratt also said Monday that he supports the project.The main expense will be $1.8 million to connect pipelines from Cedar Grove and Glasgow to Pratt, including a pipeline to be constructed under the Kanawha River.Colt Sandoro, who works for the Kanawha County Commission's Planning and Community Development Committee, said West Virginia American Water plans a $400,000 investment in Pratt's local water distribution system, including fire hydrants, reinforcing the main line through town and installing new water meters.The utility also will pay $427,000 to buy the existing Pratt company out of the water system, which will include paying off debt service on the current plant."West Virginia American Water will not take over the existing plant," Sandoro said. "The town of Pratt will still own the current water treatment plant, but it will be retired."Sandoro said some money for the project -- between $90,000 and $180,000 -- will come from coal severance funds."This is an example of the use of coal severance funds in the areas from which they come," Hardy said "This will improve the quality of life in the area for years to come."The town needs a special election to approve the new rates, which will probably go down. The water company will also be able to offer technical assistance to the town to keep the water healthy," Hardy said.In recent years, Pratt sometimes experienced difficulties keeping its water tank full and uncontaminated from chemicals like haloacetic acids, which can cause cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.Back in January, Fields asked Pratt residents to conserve water after finding low levels in the town's water tank. Fields also warned on potential contamination.Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper has urged Pratt to give up its problematic water system for more than 10 years. The county has already paid for some treatment chemicals to make the water in Pratt safer to use and drink.Because local and state businesses will be awarded contracts to improve the water system, the project "will also have an economic impact," McIntyre said.Reach Paul J. Nyden at email@example.com or 304-348-5164.