PRENTER CAMP, W.Va. — Residents of a small Boone County community were thrust into a dire situation this week they didn’t see coming. Wednesday, residents in the 25 homes of Prenter Camp turned on the faucet and nothing came out.
“A company shut the power off to the pump house,” said resident Gini Nelson. “Without power to the pump, the tank gets no fresh water and the tank will last two and a half days with us conserving water. As of yesterday (Wednesday) we have no water.”
The storage tank sits high on a mountaintop above the community. The pump house is within the community. The history of how it became the lone water supply for the community is spotty and nobody is really sure how it was all assembled.
“It was set up years ago,” Nelson said. “I’m not even sure when it was set up. I guess it was set up when the coal company houses were around here.”
Since then it’s been a community water service. The water hasn’t been treated in 20 years since the last man who was in charge of the water died.
“No one has paid anything on this water system whatsoever. If the pump happens to go out, it’s a $10,000 pump.Where are we going to get the money for that?” Nelson said. “As of right now, this water is not treated. It’s not drinkable, but we can still take a shower, do the dishes, flush the commode and things like that.”
The power bill for the pump house, according to Nelson, had always been paid by Patriot Coal. Patriot is now bankrupt and gone. The company which shut off the power this week was ERPS Oil according to Nelson. ERPS is an oil and gas exploration company. Nelson said the company paid the bill for a couple of months after Patriot Coal was dissolved, but apparently stopped paying this week.
Sixty-five residents live in the community. There is a UMWA union hall and a head start there. Nelson said the head start children had been transferred to Racine. The residents include a number of children, special needs residents, and shut in senior citizens. She has contacted a number of agencies, including the Boone County Commission, but so far had no answers.
“There’s city water up the hollow to within three miles of here,” she said. “Nobody seems to want to deal with us.”
Nelson hoped to get some immediate help and then get in touch with the right agency for a more long term solution.
“If we don’t get some emergency help to get water put back in this is a health concern,” she said. “We can’t take showers, we can’t flush our commode, we’ll need drinking water eventually. This is something that really needs to be jumped on, but it seems like we’re not getting any help.”