BUCKHANNON — City water customers can drink it in: Buckhannon’s water department garnered the top award at the West Virginia Rural Water Association’s annual conference earlier this week.
At the city’s water board meeting Thursday, water superintendent Kelly Arnold announced the water department — one of more than 360 WVRWA members in the state — had earned the Water System of the Year Award during the conference, which took place Sept. 9-13 in Charleston.
The last time the water department was honored with the same laurel was in 1992.
“I think it’s a great honor,” Arnold told water board members Thursday. “I had the privilege of accepting the award for the system, but I have to give credit to the employees. They had the hard job; they actually made (the system) work. And the plant operators and the distribution operators, I can’t speak enough of them.”
But Arnold didn’t stop there, also making sure to credit city hall employees as well as the mayor, council and the water board for the award.
“I have to also give credit to the staff here at city hall — the way they handled the billing, the issues of giving the slips as far as work orders,” Arnold added. “It’s not just one person or one department that has made this happen. It’s collectively, and with that being said, special thanks goes to the mayor, the city council and the water board because without your insight, your knowledge and your abilities to foresee things and listen to what we actually bring before you, which allows us to use the knowledge that we have, I don’t think it would have been possible to ever obtain this award.”
Arnold also thanked the customer base for its patience.
He said the department had earned the award by going “above and beyond what the Bureau for Public Health requires in the sense of doing a little additional testing and trying to improve.”
Mayor David McCauley praised city water department employees.
“We can’t say enough about what a great job you do,” McCauley said. “There were over 368 water systems in the state you were competing against, and we came out on top.”
Following the meeting, Arnold described his crew as “a great group of knowledgeable guys,” who have each attained some level of certification and possess additional skills, like the ability to weld and perform electrical work. Arnold also acknowledged retired chief water plant operator Tom Landis for his role in the department’s success.
City water plant operators include: chief operator Jerry Myers, Gary Hershman, Melvin Perry, Mike McCauley and Justin Atwell. Distribution operators are Jerry Wamsley, Tom Rolenson, Russ Robinson, Tom Davis, Shane Wayts and Brian Carpenter.
In other water department-related news, the city held an official groundbreaking ceremony Thursday for the new 1.2 million gallon water tank that will be constructed at the top of Victoria Hill. The new tank, which should be operational by the end of 2017, will allow the city to store an additional 600,000 additional gallons of potable water, according to city engineer Jay Hollen.
“We plan on decommissioning the St. Joseph’s Hospital water storage tank sometime in 2018,” Hollen said Friday.
The city water system serves 3,955 customers within municipal limits, in addition to the customers of four public service districts: Adrian Public Service District, Elkins Road PSD, Hodgesville PSD and Mt. Hope Water Association.