CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A member of the Pratt Council called West Virginia American Water's proposal to take over the town's water system an answer to her prayers.
The company announced its intentions to take over the struggling water system during a press conference Monday morning at the Kanawha County Courthouse.
The town's water plant is dilapidated, and it can no longer provide clean water to residents.
The water was found to be contaminated with haloacetic acids last June. The town had sent out letters to customers informing them about the contaminant.
Long-term exposure can damage the liver, kidneys, and nervous and reproductive systems.
Pratt Mayor Gary Fields acknowledged that the town did not have the money for upgrades and the only way out of the situation was to have West Virginia American Water take over the system.
"This is truly an answer to our prayers," Councilwoman Kaye Ford said.
However, the town's residents must first approve the transaction since it is a city-owned water system, Kanawha Commissioner Dave Hardy said. The West Virginia Public Service Commission must also approve the transaction, he said.
Hardy hopes to have the referendum before Pratt voters within 45 days. The commission has agreed to pay the cost of holding the election, which Hardy believes will run no more than $3,000.
West Virginia American Water has agreed to pay the town $437,000 for the town's water system. The company has also agreed to invest $400,000 to improve the existing system, said Jeff McIntyre, West Virginia American Water president.
The county commission will also vote on providing up to $180,000 out of its coal severance budget toward the project.
These funds, along with the $437,000 will eliminate the town's debt on the water system and other issues that have arisen because of a lack of funds, Hardy said.
The company also plans on spending about $1.8 million to lay 9,900 feet of water pipeline, he said. The pipeline will be used to connect the town's system to the company's water plant in Charleston, McIntyre said.
"The Pratt water plant has become dilapidated and we're not going to use it," he said.
Hardy, a native of Pratt whose parents still live in the small community, is very pleased that the water system will be connected to the plant that supplies Charleston.
"The citizens of Pratt will enjoy the same quality of water they have in Charleston," Hardy said.
Officials hope to have the entire project completed by the end of the year, McIntyre said. Ground should be broken on the pipeline portion of the project as well as the upgrades to the existing water system sometime in early summer, he said.