Judge lifts order against Apple Orchard wells
Circuit Judge John Yoder decided last Friday to let two homeowners proceed with the construction and hookup of private water wells in Apple Orchard Acres, after the residents were told to stop work onthe wells.
In his November 18 decision, Judge Yoder dissolved the temporary restraining order that Judge Gina Groh had granted on November 9.
That order had stopped work on the wells being drilled by two separate homeowners – Patti Miller and Mike Bergen -- and prohibited the Morgan County Health Department from issuing any more well permits for the subdivision.
Judge Groh put a stop to the well construction after Lee Snyder, the owner of the subdivision’s private water system, opened a civil case against the Morgan County Health Department; Health officer Kevin McLaughlin, Miller and Bergen.
Snyder wants the court to prevent the construction of wells and to stop the Health Department from allowing any new wells in the development.
In his written decision, Judge Yoder said the restraining order wasn’t justified, because Snyder’s company would not incur “irreparable harm” if the wells were drilled and hooked up while the court weighed the case.
He indicated that Miller and Bergen would receive the greatest harm if required to stop work on the wells, since they have spent several thousand dollars each on drilling and well work.
Old rule still apply?
Snyder and his company’s argument is that a 1978 ruling from the West Virginia Department of Health prohibits any private wells from being drilled in Apple Orchard Acres, because the subdivision has a water system for all residents.
The company argues they have lost thousands of dollars on the Apple Orchard Acres water system, and if residents choose to drill wells, the company will lose revenue from monthly water bills and will be unable to afford to operate the system.
There are currently some 45 customers on the water system, paying at least the base rate of $43 per month.
Residents have been struggling to address serious water supply and quality issues from their subdivision’s water system, and enlisted the help of the Morgan County Health Department in solving the problems.
Last spring, the Health Department created a task force to work with Snyder and the Apple Orchard Acres residents to find a solution to their water problems.
History of problems
Residents had repeatedly run out of water, were notified of a Boil Water order, and found their water to be discolored.
Despite raising monthly water rates for customers in the development, Snyder told homeowners last spring that he couldn’t make needed repairs to the system’s leaking pipes or add to the system’s water storage capacity.
Formal complaints against Snyder were dismissed by the West Virginia Public Service Commission, which advised that Snyder needed to upgrade his water system there.
Seeking to give resident some avenues for relief, this fall the local Health Department lifted its own moratorium against well permits in the subdivision, as long as homeowners could meet the rules about where to place the wells.
In an effort to settle the issue with Bergen and Miller, the Morgan County Health Department has agreed to hold off issuing any further well permits for the subdivision until the case is resolved.
A trial in the matter is set in Circuit Court for May 11, 2012.