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MUB CSOs ‘the elephant in the room’ for Deckers Creek recreation project

A six-month, $18,000 feasibility study is underway to determine whether the section of Deckers Creek running from Sabraton to the Monongahela River could support a recreational amenity. 

As initially reported last July, a group comprised of members from Main Street Morgantown, Friends of Deckers Creek, the city of Morgantown and others began envisioning Deckers Creek as a potential recreational asset — think lazy river or low-grade whitewater — with the understanding a Richard Mine acid mine drainage facility was coming. 

That facility began operation in April, restoring a once heavily polluted watershed. 

On Tuesday, Mark Downs and L.J. Giuliani, with Main Street Morgantown, spoke to members of the Morgantown Utility Board regarding “the elephant in the room” — MUB’s combined sewer overflow system. 

Combined sewer overflow means the system collects both wastewater and stormwater runoff in the same infrastructure and discharges both, untreated, directly into a body of water when it becomes overwhelmed by heavy rainfall or other events. 

MUB has 22 overflow outlets along the banks of Deckers Creek and 16 along the Monongahela River. 

While the frequency of discharge varies by location, MUB’s website notes “The best advice is simple: Avoid the water for 72-hours following a rain event.” 

That’s a problem.  

“Obviously, flow is an issue and the better the flow the better the amenity and the better the asset, but when flows are highest is when the water is most dangerous. So, I think probably so,” Downs said when asked if the CSO issue was a potential deal breaker. “These things are still done with CSO’s in the mix. But they shut them down when it rains a lot.”  

MUB leadership is working as part of the project steering committee and has met with S2O Design and Engineering, the Colorado-based firm conducting the feasibility study funded with $5,000 secured by Delegate Evan Hansen as well as $5,000 from both the city of Morgantown and the Monongalia County Commission and $3,000 from Main Street Morgantown.

Downs asked the utility when it may be able to provide updated data on its long-term control plan as well as the numbers and science on how often the system is overflowing into the waterways and how it’s impacting the water. 

As it turns out, that’s all in the works. 

“Strand Associates just completed the first phase of updating our long-term control plan, which included the development of a hydraulic model for calculating wastewater flows and activity at our CSOs,” General Manager Mike McNulty explained. 

The board approved an expenditure of $424,500 for Strand to complete the roughly 1,000-page document which will, among other things, contemplate how future projects will impact MUB’s system and help control overflow discharges.

“You’re trying to have a list of projects that make the most difference when it comes to reducing the amount of overflows that you’re seeing,” Assistant General Manager Rich Rogers said. 

The LTCP process is expected to take at least six months. 

In other news from Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved fiscal year 2025 budgets for MUB’s water, sewer, stormwater and Cheat Lake sewer utilities. 

The respective budgets, which are kept separate, anticipate revenues of $16,929,926.99 (water); $18,133,898.83 (sewer); $2,378,313.65 (stormwater); $1,791,070.90 (Cheat Lake).