West Virginia Executive Spring 2017 - Page 36

engineering major from Charleston. “Some of the family members catch rain water to wash their dishes, while others utilize the creeks nearby. Having grown up just 40 minutes away from Prenter, learning about these conditions was shocking.” On March 4, 2017, the group of WVU engineering students traveled to Prenter to begin an assessment of the community’s water quality and equipment. They found that extensive work would need to be completed before the water system could be restored, including resurfacing the water storage and treatment contact tank to ensure a viable location to store clean water for the community. 34 WEST VIRGINIA EXECUTIVE “To repair the tanks, we had to remove paint, treat rust spots and power wash the surface, which was a significant challenge without a water supply,” says Morgan King, a civil and environmental engineering major from Charles- ton. “We had to dig trenches to collect rain water just to operate the washer and clean the tanks.” Prenter residents are desperate for relief but fearful that asking too many questions about the water quality will cause the coal company to uproot them from their homes. “Many have asked why we don’t get law en- forcement or other agencies involved, and the answer is simple—it would cause more harm than good,” says Courtney Gelety, a physics major from Harpers Ferry. “The residents of Prenter own their homes, but they rent their land from the coal company. If the company felt they were going to be reprimanded in any way, they could simply evict these people from the homes they grew up in. It’s a delicate situation, and with no other assistance in sight, it’s important that we do as much as we can to help.” During their four-day trip, the team was able to finish resur- facing, priming and painting the contact tank, which will make future maintenance and upgrades much easier to complete. They determined that a new sustainable drainage system will even- tually need to be installed to maintain the repaired equipment. Extensive work also needs to be completed on the overgrown access road that leads to the water system.