Lincoln County, and eventually the rest of West Virginia, will draw long-term benefits from a new million-dollar wastewater demonstration grant that is funding solutions for rural communities’wastewater treatment programs.

The Mud River Watershed in Lincoln County is one of six sites nationwide targeted for cleanup under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Decentralized Wastewater Demonstration (NDWD) program. West Virginia will receive a $1 million multi-year grant from the agency.

The award to the Lincoln County Commission was announced by Cong. Alan B. Mollohan and Nick Rahall (both D-WV), along with West Virginia University Extension Director Larry Cote and Lincoln County Commission President Charles McCann. The grant was included in the 2003 congressional appropriations bill.

About 80 percent of the water samples from the Mud River watershed exceed the national and state standards for safe amounts of coliform bacterial counts.

The grant-funded project will evaluate the watershed’s bacterial content, develop decentralized wastewater treatment facilities, and provide scientific approaches for identifying problems and creating cost-effective solutions. What is learned from this project will provide important information for other low-income rural watersheds in West Virginia and the nation.

“Effective drinking and wastewater systems are urgently needed in communities all across our country. Unfortunately, these systems often cost a lot more than our communitiesespecially rural communitiescan afford to pay,”Cong. Mollohan said.

“Through the demonstration project, WVU will work with Lincoln County officials on treatment strategies that show us how to make the very most out of our limited resources. This is more evidence of the benefits that our communities receive from the investments that are championed by Sen. (Robert C.) Byrd and Cong. Rahall-two of the strongest and most effective advocates for rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,”Mollohan said.

“West Virginians respect our rivers and strive to keep them clean,”Cong. Rahall said.”These funds can help us do our duty as stewards of our land and water. Polluted rivers and streams not only imperil the well-being of our coalfield residents but also impede our efforts to expand tourism and jobs development. Helping our communities clean their wastewater can keep our children healthy and create good jobs in growing industries.”

The project proposal was written by Patricia Miller, WVU Extension Service specialist. Much of the proposal was developed from the results of a student project funded by a Kellogg Foundation Community Partnership grant through the WVU Office of Service Learning.

About 30 students and four professors collected water samples from the watershed streams, which showed fecal bacterial contamination. Residential sewage is one possible source of the contamination, but other sources may be cattle and wildlife.

The NDWD project will determine the specific sources of contamination, identify the contamination”hot spots,”construct on-site alternative wastewater treatment systems, and monitor the effectiveness of the new systems. The project team will also develop educational programs for homeowners and community leaders about how to use and maintain the systems.

Under the leadership of McCann, the Lincoln County Commission has worked closely with WVU Extension to identify the bacterial problems.

“We have been fortunate to have a very productive relationship with WVU and Extension,”McCann said.”As part of their service learning activities, WVU faculty and students came to Lincoln County, mentored our high school students, and worked with them to do water samples and research in the watershed.”

Lincoln County and WVU Extension will collaborate with U.S. EPA to draft a detailed work plan for the project. In addition to the county commission, WVU and the Lincoln County’s WVU Extension office, the project team will reach out to many agencies and organizations for their ideas and support.