An Interview with Bob McVicker, Chief Operator, Kingwood Water Treatment Plant

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Bob McVicker

Bob McVicker, Kingwood Treatment Plant Chief Operator

Robert McVicker is the Chief Operator at the Kingwood Water Treatment and Filtration Plant on Route 72 downstream of the Cheat River Narrows.  He has been keeping Kingwood’s drinking water looking clear and tasting clean since 2002.  He recently received the Perkins-Boynton Award from the West Virginia American Water Works Association for exemplary operations in systems with more than 1,000 customers. Also, in 2011 and 2012 he received the Area Wide Optimization Award for outstanding efforts toward optimizing filter plant performance.  Before pursuing a career in drinking water treatment, Robert operated and maintained nuclear power reactors on Navy submarines and power plants.

Bob, where does our water in Kingwood come from?  Do we have a backup supply?

Kingwood’s water comes from the Cheat River.  The Cheat always has water, even in a drought.  We have a high water in-take and a low-water in-take.  When the water is really low in the river – to the point where you can walk across it on rocks, we can still get water from underneath the riverbed.  We don’t have a backup water supply right now, but I would like to explore putting in a well as a backup system.

Can you briefly explain how the water is treated?  Is it easy work?

First we pump the water to a distribution box where we inject chemicals to counteract the charged particles present in the water so that the particles can clump together and settle out.  The solids settle in two outdoor clarifier tanks which do the majority of the work.  Then the water flows through carbon filters to polish it off.  Then we add some chlorine to keep it clean while it’s flowing through the water system and while we pump it to one of four holding tanks in Kingwood.

We currently only have two operators so we work on average one 12 ½ hour shift per day, and switch who works every other weekend.  We produce water 12 hours every day and shut down at night.  It is not easy work.

Pringle Run, Lick Run, and Heather Run flow into the Cheat upstream of the water intake.  Does the acid mine drainage present in those stream affect the drinking water quality?

We are lucky that the AMD in those streams have about 1 mile in the Cheat before reaching the water in-takes.  The pH is already back up after about 100 yards below the confluence.  The volume of the Cheat is so large that even with a low alkalinity number it has sufficient alkalinity that it cleans the water before it even gets to us.  The solids from the metals settle out before it gets to us.  In fact, some extra solids coming into the system helps me treat the water because when more solids stick together, they become heavier and settle to the bottom of the clarifier tanks easier.

Charleston chemical spill.  How has it affected your job?  Could it happen here?

We already have a source water protection plan (SWPP).  We test for pH, conductivity and temperature continually with online monitors provided by RAIN (river alert information network) of which we are a member.  Now that we have to comply with SB 373, we must make some changes to the SWPP, but we will have a hard time coming up with the money and the time to do it.  The point is to determine specific parameters to monitor for according to the specific point sources present upstream.

Here, we need to keep an eye out for trucks and cars that may enter the river near the Rolwesburg bridges.  But if they spill a fuel, often it will float on the surface, and then we will start pumping from our underground water in-take if we need to.  The main thing is to just be conscientious.  We use common sense in those scenarios.

Has there ever been an unpredicted event affecting water quality at the plant?

From time to time we issue a boil water advisory, but that is not due to source water contamination.  It is usually due to a break in a water line, so there is a potential for contamination.  It is more of a precautionary step until we repair the pipes.

Most things can be treated, but it’s hard to treat water without electricity. We have to worry most about Mother Nature – she will kick your butt!

Sometimes it smells bad when driving by the treatment plant.  Why is that?

The wastewater treatment plan is right next to us, but it is not possible for the poop to contaminate our drinking water because that effluent discharges into Morgan Run which enters the Cheat downstream of our in-takes.   We have even altered the bed of the Cheat to make sure no water from Morgan Run gets near our in-takes.

Do you recreate in the Cheat River?  What is your favorite thing about the Cheat River?

I fish for trout in the Cheat, but often I don’t have the time!  I work on average 11 to 13 hours a day at the plant.

It’s a good river – we have good raw materials to work with.  The river is a living, dynamic system that changes regardless of the weather.  That keeps it very interesting.

What’s in store for the future of the Kingwood Plant?

There is always room for improvement.  This place has a lot of potential, but improvements cost money that we often don’t have.   We have good facilities and equipment here – I wouldn’t have stayed here this long if we didn’t.  I always do above-average work, or I don’t do it.

Thanks for sharing with us, Bob.


Important (and Awesome!) Changes to Kroger Giving Program

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Support-us-kroger

Since 2011, Friends of the Cheat has participated in Kroger’s community giving program.  We are excited to announce that the Gift Card method (Kroger Cares) has been eliminated and a much more user-friendly program has been instated.  It is now easier than ever to give back to FOC just by buying groceries and gas like you usually do!  For every $1 you spend, FOC gets $0.05 back.  Therefore, $100 in groceries = $5 to FOC…and these rewards can add up fast!

You need a Kroger Plus card to enroll in the program.  Friends of the Cheat’s organizational ID is 83139.

TO USE THE KROGER COMMUNITY REWARDS PROGRAM:

  • Register online at krogercommunityrewards.com with your Kroger Plus card on hand.  If you do not yet have a Kroger Plus card, they are available at the customer service desk at any Kroger.
  • Click on Sign In/Register
  • Most participants are new online customers, so click on SIGN UP TODAY in the ‘New Customer?’ box.
  • Sign up for a Kroger Rewards Account by entering zip code, clicking on favorite store, entering your email address and creating a password, agreeing to the terms and conditions
  • You will then get a message to check your email inbox and click on the link within the body of the email.
  • Click on My Account and use your email address and password to proceed to the next step.
  • Click on Edit Kroger Community Rewards information and input your Kroger Plus card number.
  • Update or confirm your information.
  • Enter FOC’s number 83139 or name and click on confirm.
  • To verify you are enrolled correctly, you will see your organization’s name on the right side of your information page.
  • REMEMBER, purchases will not count for your group until after your member(s) register their card(s).
  • Do you use your phone number at the register?  Call 800-576-4377, select option 4 to get your Kroger Plus card number.
  • Members must swipe their registered Kroger Plus card or use the phone number that is related to their registered Kroger Plus card when shopping for each purchase to count.

Cheat Canyon Preserved!

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Cheat Canyon near High Falls, photo credit Kent Mason

Cheat Canyon near High Falls, photo credit Kent Mason

Friends of the Cheat is thrilled to announce that 3,836 acres of the iconic Cheat River Canyon have been purchased by The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy for preservation, and ultimately, public use and enjoyment! Their action will protect a seven-mile stretch of the Cheat River, and most of the Canyon not already included in Cooper’s Rock State Forest and Snake Hill Wildlife Management Area. Finally, after 20 years and a few unsuccessful attempts, the land will now be protected forever!

The Canyon has been a target for conservation since 1976. The Nature Conservancy has identified the Cheat River as one of the most ecologically intact rivers in the Central Appalachians. There are no dams in the Cheat River main stem and none of the watershed’s major tributaries are dammed. The river is connected to a well-forested floodplain, and the vast majority of the watershed’s headwaters are part of the Monongahela National Forest complex.

FOC is hopeful that this is a step towards reviving commercial interest in the Canyon’s world-class whitewater, and, at some time in the future, re-opening the section of the Allegheny Trail that runs through the Canyon. The Allegheny Trail is 330 mile north-south trail through WV, which connects to the Appalachian Trail at the VA-WV border.

When complete, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will manage all 3,800 acres as a component of its Wildlife Management Area system and as a complement to the complex of public recreation lands on the lower Cheat River.

This accomplishment is a landmark event for all parties involved over the last two decades. Kudos to the staff at The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy, and specifically Rodney Bartgis and Beth Wheatley who have engaged FOC throughout this project’s long, bumpy road. FOC looks forward to the next leg of this exciting journey.

What is your vision for the Cheat River Canyon? Tell us by emailing foc@cheat.org with the subject line, Canyon Vision.

Stay up to date on this story and all FOC news by joining our e-mail list.  Go to www.cheat.org and use the sign up window in the top right corner of the page.

Press on this historic sale:

The Charleston Gazette article includes a really neat flyover of the property in Google Earth

The Dominion Post free source

Wheeling Intelligencer


WV Division of Land Restoration & Friends of the Cheat Partnership Pilot Project launch

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DEP Pilot Project Team Coordinator Owen Mulkeen gives the scoop on FOC’s exciting new collaboration:

The season change is in full swing as temperatures drop and leaves turn fiery red and yellow. Fall is everyone’s favorite season: energy is high as harvest time draws near and opportunities for outdoor pursuits abound. Likewise, excitement is brewing at Friends of the Cheat as we inaugurate a large scale service project in partnership with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Hard work from the staff at FOC and the WVDEP Division of Land Restoration over the past year and a half is finally coming to fruition. In August, FOC hired four full-time staff members to create the WV Division of Land Restoration & Friends of the Cheat Partnership Pilot Project, under which FOC will monitor and maintain DEP water treatment facilities residing in the Cheat River basin.

FOC Field Technicians Jeremy Sidebottom, Garrett Thompson, and Chris Bern are already hard at work reducing water pollution in local streams.

FOC Field Technicians Jeremy Sidebottom, Garrett Thompson, and Chris Bern are already hard at work reducing water pollution in local streams.

This is truly an exciting opportunity for Friends of the Cheat. Our hands will physically be turning the knobs that treat acid mine drainage (AMD) right here in our backyard. Our new staff members, most of whom grew up in Preston County, are intimately and acutely aware of the consequences of AMD. Friends of the Cheat would like to welcome the new team coordinator and the three water quality technicians to the Kingwood office: Owen Mulkeen, Chris Bern, Jeremy Sidebottom, and Garrett Thompson. These four individuals will be managing the treatment facilities that dot the countryside of Preston County.

Be on the lookout for new Friends of the Cheat vehicles, and make sure to smile and wave as they’re on their way to clean up some water!


Kingwood Hike with the Preston Ramblers

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On the afternoon of Sunday, June 30th, the Preston Ramblers, a group of hikers rallied by the Preston Rail-Trail Committee (PRTC) of Friends of the Cheat, met at the future trail head of the West Virginia Northern rail-trail near the historic water tower in Kingwood. Four committee members were joined by two community members interested in learning more about the Committee’s rail-trail projects, including how they could get involved. Although it was a hot afternoon, the hikers and a canine companion had a great walk.

Group Picture

Preston Ramblers and guests get ready for a summer hike on the proposed WV Northern Trail

Preston Ramblers organize excursions on rail-trails and future rail-trails throughout the area for members of the community to get acquainted with the trails and learn more about rail-trail development efforts in Preston County. The West Virginia Northern and the Cheat River CSXT line are two rail-trail projects that the Preston Ramblers are promoting in 2013.

The group’s next hike will start from the Tunnelton end of the West Virginia Northern Railroad line, on Thursday July 11th at 6pm, meeting at the Honor Roll area in Tunnelton which is across Rt. 26 from the school. PRTC intents to look over the area and try to come up with a plan for the trail head for that area.  PRTC welcomes new people enthusiastic about the plethora of benefits that rail-trails bring to the area.  Learn more about PRTC and their efforts at www.cheat.org/recreation/trails and by joining the Preston Rail-Trail Committee group on Facebook.  PRTC meets the first Monday of each month at the Friends of the Cheat office in Kingwood at 5pm.


FOC Hiring Media Specialist – deadline 1/28/15

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Friends of the Cheat, Inc., a non-profit, grassroots, watershed group based out of Kingwood, WV seeks a dynamic individual or team to take over the daily management, planning, and development of the organization’s web and print media, including the group’s two websites, blog, Facebook pages, print and electronic newsletter, e-mail communications, and special media associated with outreach and fundraising events and opportunities.

Required Competencies

Computer Software and Content Management Systems:  MS Office, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (preferred but equivalents considered), WordPress, Google Services (Drive, Calendar, etc.)

Social Media Applications:  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, MailChimp

Excellent verbal and written communication skills

Excellent organizational skills

Proven ability to meet and push others to meet deadlines

Detail-oriented

Experience with journalism, peer-editing, print material layout, and an eye for design are necessary for success.  The ability to work independently while staying connected to the FOC team is key in addition to understanding non-profits and the local social landscape.  Knowledge of water, conservation, recreation, and local and state issues is also very helpful.  Superior applicants will have vision for how the position can strategically support FOC programs and initiatives.

FOC offers this position as a fixed-price contract with hours projected at up to 350-400 annually.

Interested parties should submit a cover letter, resume, list of 3 professional references, and a minimum of 3 work examples such as:  writing samples, links to websites designed and/or managed, print and/or web material from educational, marketing, or fundraising campaigns, photography, videos, other print or web media, and presentations.  Quality over quantity preferred.  Creative applications encouraged.  Electronic and hard-copy submissions (or a combination thereof) will be accepted until Wednesday, January 28th.

Send application materials to:

Friends of the Cheat, Amanda Pitzer, Executive Director

E-mail:                                Amanda@cheat.org

Mailing Address:            Friends of the Cheat

119 South Price Street, Suite 206

Kingwood, WV 26537


Getting My Feet Wet Once Again

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Since returning to the area in September to work with Friends of the Cheat, I’ve been fortunate to spend many of my days reacquainting myself with familiar old reaches of the Cheat River, and exploring a few new ones as well.  I am again in awe of the diversity of the paddling opportunities awaiting the enterprising boater in this vast free-flowing drainage.  I am captivated by the raw, wild, mostly forgotten corners of the landscape that are waiting to help you find yourself, if you can first put yourself out there.  Each day on the river has brought me a new experience, a new perspective:   Autumn color swirling in eddies; spying on a sleepy, bashful black bear in his home turf; the cold, lonely winter evenings spent chasing daylight, with the sounds of the wind and water as loyal company; charging down the unforgiving and breathtaking tannic waters of the class-V upper reaches; lazy summer floats, soaking in the warm sun all day with friends; waking up on the riverbank wearing an extra layer of dew; exploring the subaquatic realm at the Alley.  Getting my feet wet once again.

FOC staff member Garrett Thompson and guests Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastal Trust E.D., and Barry Sulkin, Environmental Consultant with PEER

FOC staff member Garrett Thompson and guests Kathy Phillips, Assateague Coastal Trust E.D., and Barry Sulkin, Environmental Consultant with PEER

FOC was recently honored to play host to a number of national river conservation leaders, here from all over the country to attend this year’s River Rally conference in nearby Pittsburgh.  We had the opportunity to paddle the newly protected Cheat Canyon during one day of their stay, and it made for another memorable day on the river.  A number of the visitors were skilled kayakers capable of navigating the unfamiliar rapids of the Canyon with confidence; the remainder rode in one of several inflatable Shredders and rafts.  Several FOC staff, Board members, and friends eagerly joined the crew to guide rafts and share our home river with these friendly visitors.

With the excitement of the recently announced Canyon purchase still thick in the air, the group shoved off from the FOC access point at the festival site to float the 9 mile stretch to Jenkinsburg Bridge.  With flows around 900cfs, which is toward the lower end of quality water levels for small rafts, we were in no hurry – leaving us with all the more opportunity to absorb the scenery and explore the little nooks and crannies of this magnificent place.  With such a large, free-flowing drainage, flows vary greatly in the Canyon, both seasonally and with day to day precipitation.  These wild waters ensure that the rapids are never the same from one day to the next:  from the thundering high volume rapids of spring to the tight technical lines and long pools in late summer only navigable by patient boaters in small crafts.  On this particular day we were fortunate to have an ideal moderate water level for our trip, as well as fantastic weather.  Overcast skies kept the sun off our shoulders, but never delivered on the forecasted high winds and thunderstorms until we were back under the cover of the Eloise Morgan Milne Pavilion at the day’s end.  Good lines were had by all – with only one rafter going for an unexpected swim and quick recovery, at the top of the rapid known as “tear-drop”.

Five years ago I sustained a shoulder injury that ended the raft guiding career that first led me to call the Cheat River home.  After surgery and an extensive period of rehabilitation, exploring rivers by kayak has once again become a major component of my life – this time with new respect and perspective.  However, I had mostly left guiding rafts behind as I’d focused my attention on other pursuits.  This day on the Canyon marked my first time in a raft in several years, and I’d almost forgotten just how rewarding it can be to share a place like the Canyon, a place that I know and love, with people that may not find themselves there otherwise.  I couldn’t have asked for better company.  It was a real treat for me and the rest of the FOC crew to see the excitement and intrigue on the faces of so many fellow river lovers and advocates from all over the country.  These were folks that are no stranger to outstanding rivers worthy of diligent conservation efforts, and I have no doubt that the Cheat left an impression just as it has on many of us over the years.

The orange stained rocks visible in parts of the Canyon serve as a not-so-subtle reminder of the Cheat’s troubled past, and need for ongoing treatment efforts.  Yet around every bend, we saw a river teeming with life.  At one point a large fish leapt high out of a calm pool before splashing back down onto the glassy surface.  With only one river bend between us and the high truss bridge at Jenkinsburg, a bald eagle swooped down out of the tree line on river right before banking a wide turn boldly displaying its unmistakable white markings and flying upstream right over our group and out of sight.  Eagles are no longer an uncommon sight in the Canyon, but they remain an exciting reminder that the lower Cheat is once again home to a healthy aquatic ecosystem capable of supporting top predators.  While there is certainly much more work to be done, a trip through the Canyon today will leave no doubt that we’ve come a long way in the last twenty years.


June 7th – Meet the Cheat Community Paddle

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Paddle the Upper Cheat River Water Trail with Friends of the Cheat!

On Saturday, June 7th, Friends of the Cheat’s Water Trail Committee will celebrate the Upper Cheat River Water Trail’s one year anniversary and National Trails Day by hosting the Meet the Cheat Community Paddle!  The group seeks to make this event an annual one, with the support of Blackwater Outdoor Adventures (BOA) and other local businesses.

Meet at the Blackwater Outdoor Adventures outpost in St. George (60 Location Road, Parsons) at 10am to conserve parking spaces at the Holly Meadows access site and get a free shuttle to the put-in.  The floatilla will launch at 11am from the Holly Meadows access site (off of Holly Meadows Rd – CR5/8) and float the Upper Cheat River Water Trail approximately 8 miles to St. George.

Pending good water levels, the paddle will take about 4 hours.  Need a boat?  Canoes and inflatables are available for rental.  BOA is offering a rental special for this event:

Canoes @ $30 with $10 donated to Friends of the Cheat’s Cheat River Water Trail project.

Kayaks @ $15 with $5 donated to Friends of the Cheat’s Cheat River Water Trail project.

Contact BOA will all questions pertaining to paddling:  raftboa@frontiernet.net or (304)478-3775.

Join the paddling after-party at Blackwater Outdoor Adventure’s outpost around 4pm.  The event will include live music, food and beverages provided by the Water Trail Committee, and plenty of friends with whom to share your big fish stories with around the campfire.  Camping is available at BOA.

Water levels can change paddling plans; stay tuned in by joining the Upper Cheat River Water Trail group on Facebook or by keeping an eye on the water trail website:  www.cheatriverwatertrails.org.   The website will have a new look very soon thanks to support from the Tucker County CVB!

Upper Cheat River Water Trail opening weekend, 2013. Photo by Crede Calhoun.

Upper Cheat River Water Trail opening weekend, 2013. Photo by Crede Calhoun.

You too can support this project by joining the Water Trail Committee, volunteering to maintain an access, or by donating goods, services or money to the project’s dedicated fund.  Contact Dave Cassell to learn more:  mtbikewv@comcast.net