When the 10-student team arrived in McComas, a community with less than 80 residents, their goal was to evaluate the condition of the water, as well as the water system itself to see if any critical repairs could be made during the trip.
The team was surprised to find that, despite the fact that the water system was labeled as abandoned, the overall water quality in the community was good and that most of the residents believed there was nothing wrong with their water supply,
“We found that community members use the water for everyday uses and in fact emphasized that they believe their water is of great quality,” said Morgan King, a Charleston native who recently graduated with a degree in civil engineering. ”We quickly discovered that the primary issue was a lack of financial resources to maintain the water system, and not the water itself.”
According to state records, the system is currently labeled as abandoned due to the fact that mandatory water testing is not being conducted on the water supply. The required monthly tests cost at least $500, plus the cost of labor. Residents currently pay only approximately $16 or less per month for water utilities, so the small population size cannot sustain the cost of complying with state standards.
“Testing of the water system occurs, just not as regularly as mandated by the state,” said King. “While WVUEWB is not able to help McComas financially, we could help by performing manual labor so that the operators could focus their time and financial resources on the water testing.”
The students spent two days reconditioning the community’s water tank and clearing brush and debris that had collected around the water system to make the area more accessible by vehicle. They also spent time interviewing residents and taking water samples for further analysis.
Before heading home, WVUEWB members were also able perform outreach initiatives at Princeton and Liberty high schools. The team members engaged with students through presentations and interactive engineering activities and demonstrations.
“Outreach is an important part of what EWB does, because it falls in line with our mission to give back and lead through service,” said King. “By engaging youth in schools, whether they become future engineers, doctors, accountants, mechanics, etc., we can encourage the importance of service to hopefully instill that idea into their own motivations.”
WVUEWB will return to McComas in the fall to finish reconditioning and painting the water tank. In the meantime, their contribution of both supplies and labor will help alleviate some of the financial strain and help the community become one step closer to having a water system that meets state standards.
“Our long-term goal is to have a collective group of McComas residents, state legislators and engineering professionals identify a financial and/or technical way to improve the maintenance and upkeep of the water system in McComas,” said Bridgeport native Ahmed Haque, president of WVUEWB and a recent graduate of chemical engineering. “West Virginians are the most resilient, compassionate and welcoming people you'll meet, and for us as members of WVUEWB, the best thing that we can do is take what we learn in the classroom and use it to create, lead, and communicate initiatives and programs to give back to the state that has given us so much.”
WVUEWB plans to identify additional communities in West Virginia that are facing water accessibility issues so that they can continue to advocate for additional technical, political, social and financial assistance in the future.
For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources:
College Relations office: 304-293-4086
Office of the Dean: 304-293-4157
Other College administrative and department offices: Administration