MUB: Cheat Lake wastewater expansion two years out, more public meetings planned

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. Growth in the Cheat Lake area is a good thing, but it requires expansion and upgrade of the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) Cheat Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant and Whites Run pumping station. Morgantown Utility Board of Directors president, Barbara Parsons, said the existing facilities have been operating near capacity since 2014 and growth in the area has continued.

“It’s over 20 years old and declining in terms of its capabilities,” Parsons said. “Obviously there’s been a lot of growth in that area; in fact, since 2001, I believe the population out there has nearly doubled.”

The project is estimated to cost $28.7 million and would be built on a little more than 12 acres between the Chestnut Ridge Church parking lot and Sunset Beach Road. MUB purchased the land for $1.4 million in 2018, knowing expansion of the facilities to support future growth was inevitable.

However, Parsons said the board is mindful of neighborhood concerns following the initial presentation of the project during a recent open meeting in the area.

“We’re not going to do anything until we’ve had several meetings with residents in that area,” Parsons said. “The MUB Board of Directors is planning a physical tour of the area so we can see literally the concerns that neighbors have.”

Parsons said in 2019 the parties agreed to enlist the expertise of Strand and Associates to begin a comprehensive review of the existing facility and the design of an expansion that would support growth for decades to come.

During heavy rain events, the current facility, which was last upgraded in 2001, is frequently forced to handle flows above the plant’s design capability. Those events put MUB in possible violation of state and federal regulations regarding National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System requirements.

“We pump waste water about two miles from our lift station on White’s Run, so it’s a broad area that still needs further development, and we anticipate that will occur,” Parsons said.

The relationship between property values and odor is a chief concern that was expressed at the on-site meeting. Property owners said that considering expanding the plant without creating a public nuisance for nearby residents is not reasonable. But Parsons said this facility will have the very latest in sludge management, disinfection, and odor control systems that are proven to work locally.

“We now have the ability to do a much better job of managing that aspect of it, as we’ve demonstrated in Star City, where we’ve always had an issue there, and now I think most people are totally unaware of the fact the wastewater treatment plant is there,” Parsons said.

The process to expand the facility requires multiple permits and studies that require many months of preparation, review, comment, and possible revisions. Parsons said there were several opportunities along the way for Cheat Lake residents to voice concerns and learn about the project and timeline.

“If we were to start today it would take two more years of permitting and planning and all of the things that have to go into this before we could put a shovel in the ground,” Parsons said. “So, with the meetings with the public, it’s at least two years.”