W.Va. American Water officially takes over Pratt's system

Bob Wojcieszak
Officials from Kanawha County and the town of Pratt turn the valve that will allow water to flow into the town through West Virginia American Water's pipelines. The company has officially taken over the town's water system, which had been failing for years.
Pratt and Kanawha County officials joined representatives of West Virginia American Water to mark the transfer of the town's failing water system during a "turn-the-valve" ceremony in Hansford Thursday afternoon.Though the actual water began flowing from West Virginia American Water's new pipeline across the Kanawha River earlier this week, officials literally turned a valve to produce water from a fire hydrant fed by the new line.Pratt Councilwoman Charlotte Calhoun said she was overcome earlier this week, when she realized the water coming into her home would soon be safe to drink."I had to boil three gallons of water at the house," she said. "I don't have to do that again. That's a privilege."One unidentified woman apparently concurred with Calhoun, calling out from the audience during the ceremony, "We can drink the water! We don't have to boil it any more!"Pratt voters were nearly unanimous in a June election to sell the system to the private company, with 153 votes and favor and just seven opposed. The water system had been failing for years and was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to various agencies.In June 2012, a test found that haloacetic acids in the water supply were above the maximum allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Pratt water system was completed in 1978, and the town's sewage system was finished in 1989. It also serves the unincorporated community of Hansford and areas along Paint Creek Road to the West Virginia Turnpike.West Virginia American Water paid the town $437,000 for the system and promised an investment of $400,000 in various repairs and upgrades -- something water company officials said was already taking place."We started fixing leaks yesterday," West Virginia American Water President Jeff McIntyre said.
The proceeds from the sale of the water system -- helped by a $180,000 contribution in coal severance funds from the Kanawha County Commission -- mean that the town of Pratt is now also debt-free, something Mayor Gary Fields said was the first time he could remember."It's a great day for Pratt," Fields said. "This has been quite a battle for the last four years. I'm really excited about this. I think Pratt is ready to move forward."Officials also expressed optimism about potential development, now that the town and nearby areas have a clean, more reliable water source."The future is exciting," Councilwoman Kaye Ford said. "In due time, we'll be able to see great things come from Pratt."Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said West Virginia American Water spent $2.64 million on the project to connect Pratt to its existing system in the county.
"It's easy to take water for granted," he said. "Those of you that live in Pratt... know you can't take clean water for granted."Pratt's water will now come from the Elk River, via West Virginia American Water's treatment plant in Charleston. The new pipeline across the Kanawha River connects to the Pratt system at the eastern end of Kanawha Street in Hansford.The company said the treatment plant in Charleston serves around 210,000 people in Kanawha, Putnam and Boone counties, as well as small portions of Logan, Lincoln, Cabell, Clay, Roane, Jackson and Mason counties.The sale of the Pratt system closed Tuesday.Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4817. 
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