A $2 million block grant announced Monday “puts the icing on the cake” for a project to bring public water to dozens of homes in Purgitsville.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Pastor Don Judy of White Pine Church of the Brethren. He began pushing the issue 3 years ago.
The $2 million community development block grant goes into a pot with $975,000 committed by the Army Corps of Engineers and another $1 million from the State Infrastructure Council, bringing the total available to $3.975 million, said Terry Lively, executive director of the Region 8 Planning and Development Council that oversees public service projects like this across the Potomac Highlands.
Hampshire’s $2 million grant was the largest of $13.7 million announced by Gov. Jim Justice Monday afternoon.
County Commission President Brian Eglinger and Commissioner Bob Hott were present at what they described as a hastily organized Zoom meeting on Monday at which Justice announced this year’s grants.
The governor’s office said the project will extend water service along U.S. 220 from the Hardy County line north to Old Mountain Road, Huffman Road and Phillip Vincent Road, serving 80 new customers.
“It’s always been about the health of the people up there,” Judy said Tuesday morning. “A lot of hard work went into that — and determination and coming together.”
Judy began lobbying for public water in the area in the fall of 2018, spurred by the abysmal quality of the well water and anecdotal evidence of high cancer rates.
A press conference he held that October featured water catching fire as it poured from a kitchen tap.
When the County Commission refused to pay for testing of water, Judy found private donations to test samples that ignited state and federal officials to begin searching for ways to put the area on a public water system.
Plans are for Central Hampshire to purchase water from neighboring Hardy County and pump it to residents. More than 100 people put down a deposit and signed up for the service.
More will be connected in later phases — provided funding can be found for them.
Judy said he already had a request from north of the 1st development area Tuesday morning.
“Four wells down there you can’t get any water out of from the nonstop spewing of natural gas,” he contended.
Lively said the block grant allows design to begin on the project.
Community Development Block Grants were authorized by the federal Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 to support the development of sustainable communities, including providing a suitable living environment and expanding economic opportunities.
Review Correspondent Sydney Maurer contributed to this report.