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Pool vandals cost Putnam taxpayers thousands

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The recent act of vandalism at Valley Park pool has resulted in thousands of dollars in damages, according to the Putnam County Parks Department.

Someone entered the wave pool facility overnight around July 10, got the key and opened the main water valve that empties the water slide pool, Parks and Recreation Director Scott Williamson said.

He said police patrol the area hourly, and a water quality control person actually alerted officials to the issue when he came in about 5 a.m.

About 100,000 gallons of water were dumped into a nearby pond, along with all the chemicals associated with pools.

"The fishing pond down here is actually a retention pond for that pool," Williamson said. "It's grown to be very popular. We control how and when we let the water out. So we treat it so it's just clean water that goes into that pond."

"The vandal dumped it in 'hot' — full of chemicals and chlorine that hadn't been removed. When the water hit, there was a massive fishkill."

Williamson said the pond has natural fish, and people bring fish from the outside, too.

The state Department of Environmental Protection issued two notices of violation to the Parks Department.

"We're not expecting a fine. We've been in communication with the DEP, and I complied with everything they've asked — like what happened and what are you going to do to prevent it in the future, and we haven't heard anything else since then. I assume they're satisfied with my response," he said.

The total cost for water and chemicals is about $2,000, Williamson said.

"That's taxpayers' dollars. Everybody in the county is footing the bill," he said.

It is an open, active investigation that could lead to a felony charge because of the amount of money involved.

"We do not have cameras in that particular area. I have cameras, just not in that area, but there will be now. I don't know if we'll get a lead . . . I'm hoping if anybody knows anything to call the Hurricane Police."

When asked if it was someone who had knowledge of where the key was located, such as a former employee, Williamson said, "It could be. We checked on a couple avenues there and came up empty. Whoever it was, they were able to open a lock. They've already obtained a key. They knew where we kept the water key."

The key has since been moved, and Williamson said the area has been cleaned up.

"We got most of it cleaned up that morning. It wasn't extensive — it wasn't a massive chemical spill. We refilled the pool and we did have a late start on the slides that day, but there's all kinds of fish in there. It didn't hurt it. I saw someone catching some massive bass the last couple days. It's back to normal," he said.

Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Hurricane police at 304-562-5896.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at Candace.Nelson@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/Candace07.


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