CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Signs could be seen from looking out the windows of the Kanawha County Voter Registration Office Tuesday where water advocates were trying to reach the attention of Kanawha County Commissioners to get them to help lead in the fight for a public water system in the area.

On Tuesday, the Advocates for a Safe Water system protested private water systems, specifically West Virginia American Water Company, who member Paul Dalzell said is bad for the Kanawha Valley.

“We’re paying the third highest rate in the nation. That is one big reason,” he said.

Concerns also stem from the 2014 chemical spill on the Elk River that contaminated drinking water for nearly 300,000 residents in parts of nine counties.

“This is a scam. Rates go up, service doesn’t,” one sign read.

“People don’t trust the water,” Dalzell said. “There are constant leaks throughout the area that are not getting fixed. We’ll be paying for the money they (WVAWC) spent during the water crisis.”

Dalzell said they were out on the steps Tuesday requesting that the Commission fund a feasibility study to create a public water system. He said he believes the Commissioners are listening.

“I think we can help get the message across to them. We can show them that the people are interested in this and that this is what the people want,” Dalzell said.

Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy said he didn’t have a problem with the protests going on outside the building because he understood their frustration.

“I certainly understand the issue, but our commission has repeatedly told the PSC (Public Service Commission) that we think these rates are excessive,” Hardy said. “I personally testified last October against them.”

The protest comes after West Virginia American Water filed for a surcharge late last month — making it the second rate increase this year.