PHILIPPI - Upshur County resident Bruce Bennett spoke to Philippi City Council Tuesday regarding what he referred to as a "water tank farm" under construction by Consol Energy.
Bennett said the water tanks are being built on Auvil Road and could eventually contaminate the drinking water that flows to customers' homes from Philippi if an accident were to occur. He said three tanks were being constructed, each able to store 3.5 million gallons of "bad water."
Bennett said he wanted to know what the company's plans were for the facility. He said it was possible more tanks could be added later to store more potentially contaminated water that could be "laced with chemical materials."
"I think I'd be asking questions," Bennett said. "Now, if I was on City Council and someone wanted something from me, it's called negotiation. I'd find out what they're going to do... anything happens and millions of gallons come out, not just 40,000. The people in the community will want to know why did someone do that."
Bennett said the facility could have been placed far enough away that it couldn't contaminate the water supply. While the city supplies much of the water to customers in Barbour County, Mayor Jerry Mouser said there was little the city could do about the water tank farm.
"The city doesn't have a whole lot of control over the thing," Mouser said, adding that he consulted with the city attorney about the construction.
Bennett said if City Council would talk to Consol Energy about the situation, the company might change their plans.
"They're a good company," Bennett said. "I'm not here to bash them, not at all. They're like a sleeping giant... The giant can hurt you. He moves his foot, he may not know you're there, didn't intend to hurt you, but they can."
After the meeting, Bennett said he didn't believe he got much of a response from City Council.
"It's your-all's town," Bennett said to the elected officials before he left. "It's your drinking water."
Also on Tuesday, Philippi City Council met in special session at 4 p.m. Immediately after the session began Council went into an executive session with representatives from Consol Energy and City Attorney John Ashcom lasting until 5:15 p.m.
The executive session dealt with contractual matters regarding the Little Laurel River Dam project, which will create a water reserve for emergencies. Mouser said the contract could have potential legal implications, but noted there are no charges or legal matters pending in any court. He said that, to the best of his knowledge, Consol Energy had requested the executive session. The matter was listed on the special session's agenda as an executive session.
Mouser said the water tank farm was not the reason for the executive session discussion, but rather the meeting was set for the purpose of moving forward with the water reserve project.