Scott County PSA: Lack of public water becoming health issue

Nick Shepherd • Aug 24, 2017 at 6:00 PM

GATE CITY — Approximately 8,000 people in Scott County do not have access to public water, and the situation is posing a significant health risk due to contamination, officials say.

According to the Scott County Public Service Authority, a large number of those homes without public water are supplied with contaminated water. Lab testing of water samples in the past five years has indicated nearly 80 percent of those homes would not meet safe drinking water standards.

“It’s either contaminated with bacteria, with E. coli or it’s contaminated with substances like iron, mainly, and sulfide that makes it unpalatable,” said Mike Dishman, executive director of the PSA. “It looks bad, tastes bad, smells bad. Or it might look good, but it’s dangerous from a bacterial standpoint.”

To help combat the public health issue, the PSA is urging more residents to apply for public water. Any community seeking water must sign a user agreement either online or at the PSA office in Weber City. At least 51 percent of residents in a community must sign an agreement so funding can be sought for projects.

Engineers will be given a spreadsheet with everyone’s name, and they will decide which areas have the most interest. Those with the highest demand will be prioritized.

“Once we have the number of users in the area, we would look at the best options for funding,” said Darian Musick, an engineer with Crossroads Engineering. “We have different pots of money, we call it. ... We would see which areas would best fit those funding opportunities. From there, we would do the funding applications ... and see if we can actually get a funding offer.”

The PSA is seeking to raise awareness about public water to speed up extending service to residents. Dishman said at the current rate, it would take at least 25 years before all areas of need get public water service.

Dishman said it is extremely important that people who want public water tell the PSA.

Along with the risks of untreated water, the PSA wants everyone in the county to be informed about the benefits of public water.

“It’s dependable,” Dishman said. “It’s consistent. It’s reliable. If the power goes out, you’ll have water. ... You don’t have to worry about maintaining your own treatment system or well ... and it increases home value.”