Brooke concerned about water theft

WELLSBURG – Unusual water usage from hydrants in the Colliers area has led officials to suspect water is being stolen there.

The Brooke County Public Service District board met Thursday with leaders of the Colliers Fire Department to discuss the situation.

The board found water usage was up 95,000 gallons in January and 138,000 gallons February. The average house fire requires about 3,000 gallons to extinguish, said board member Bill Liposchak, a former firefighter.

Colliers Fire Chief Theo Keenan said the fire department usually uses a hydrant in the Police Lodge Road area, which receives water from Weirton, but will notify them of any usage from hydrants served by the Brooke County PSD.

Liposchak asked the fire department to notify the board immediately after a hydrant is used so it can be resealed.

“We want to work with you to resolve this matter so it doesn’t affect rates in Colliers,” he said.

Board members said the district doesn’t bill fire departments for the water used in extinguishing fires. But fire departments are asked to report it so the district has a record of unbilled water usage that is included in reports to the state, they said.

The board asks Colliers residents who observe unusual activity near hydrants to contact the board at (304) 737-4077. License plate numbers for any vehicles seen near the hydrants also will be helpful in identifying someone who may be stealing water through the hydrants.

In other business, Wellsburg City Manager Mark Henne asked if the board had made arrangements to receive water meter readings from Follansbee’s water department.

The readings will be used to determine sewer usage for the Brooke County PSD’s newest customers on Eldersville Road, Mahan Lane, Bruin Drive and adjacent roads. Sewage from the homes and businesses is conveyed through a line extending from Bruin Drive and along state Route 2 to Wellsburg and the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

Liposchak said the board has been in talks with Follansbee officials about the meter readings, including compensation for their efforts, and hopes to reach an agreement by its April 24 meeting. The meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the board office, 711 Charles St.

Liposchak said the lack of readings doesn’t prevent the district from billing the customers, but they are needed by Wellsburg to pursue grants for its facilities.

The board noted that even new customers who haven’t yet tapped into the sewer lines are billed because they are paying not only for the service but also the extension of lines to their area.

The project was funded by a $2.5 million, 40-year, state loan as well as a $9.8 million grant through the federal Environmental Protection Agency.