UPDATE: Fayette County Commissioners seek to remove PSD board members

UPDATE: (Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at 11:30 am) – The Fayette County Commission held an emergency meeting over the Page-Kincaid water crisis.

During the meeting, Fayette County Commissioners unanimously voted to petition each member of the PSD for removal.

The PSD board members are Robert Williams, John David, and James Kincaid Jr.

Once the petitions are officially filed, a circuit court judge will decide on their removals.

WOAY will have more on this story coming up at 5 and 6.

FAYETTE COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – The Fayette County Commission met on Friday to discuss actions they can take to give the people of Page-Kincaid clean water who have been dealing with discolored water for the past two years. 

The result of the meeting was to schedule an emergency meeting for Wednesday as they look into removing a member, or members, of the Page-Kincaid Public Service District who oversee the water system.

“Fayette County Commission needs to do what they need to do within our legal realm to make this right,” Commission President Denise Scalph said. 

The PSD is currently under investigation by the Public Service Commission. Back in October, West Virginia American Water was planning on taking over the poorly-maintained and outdated system.

According to case documents, the PSD claimed that they would only give American Water the water system if they also took the sewer system as well.

However, PSD never completed their request for documents on the sewer system, and according to the state’s PSC, their frustration with their unwillingness to settle along with the recent boil water advisory in the Page-Kincaid area led to the launch of the investigation.

The county commission has no governing authority over a public utility, but Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Mauzy says that the commission does have the power to take matters to circuit court to have members removed.

“The commission can’t really force them to do any particular thing, so what they can do in this case is actually try to remove members if they believe they have not fulfilled their duties or if they have committed malfeasance,” he said. 

In this case, the malfeasance comes from not only the years of dirty drinking water but also that they failed to provide West Virginia American Water with the information to strike a deal for taking over the system.

While this is all going on, residents like Karen Payne Jeffers continue to pay water bills totaling at $76 for water they can’t use. 

“It’s totally uncalled for, and it’s a bad situation,” Jeffers said. “I mean, you’re fighting a virus. What happens when you can’t take a good bath? You got to go to the creek. And I’m angry about it. I really, really am.” 

Using her nearby creek, Jeffers boils that water instead to use in her already stained tub.

Her other tub is now storage as she says the water created a giant hole through the side of it.

Many who have no choice but to consume the water are concerned for their health.

Jeffers’ daughter Tammy Skidmore, a Kindcaid resident, says not only is this especially bad during a pandemic, but that some people have gotten skin lesions over time that have been traced back to the water. 

“As a registered nurse, I am worried about the long term effects that this is going to have on our community. People are using this water. They’re cooking with it because they have no choice,” Skidmore said.  

While the two entities battle it out for control, residents are hopeful for an American Water win as they believe the PSD does not have the best interests of the people. 

“These people’s got a cash cow and they just want to milk it. That’s just my opinion. They want 40 years of milking the cash cow again,” Benny Miller, one Kincaid resident, said. 

The PSD was not available for comment on Friday, but Scalph says they will be invited to Wednesday’s 9 a.m. meeting at the county commission that will take place via Zoom.

In the meantime, American Water, in partnership with the National Guard and county officials, has sent in a water tank that can be used by those affected by the water crisis from  4 p.m. – 6 p.m. Saturday-Monday.

The Public Service Commission plans to have a hearing in Charleston on July 16 in hopes that both parties will have reached an agreement.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.