Lincoln County’s Green Wastewater Project began in 2003 when the US EPA included a line item in the Federal budget for an Alternative Wastewater Demonstration Project in the Mud River in Lincoln County. Earlier in 1998 and 1999, WVU Extension in Lincoln County and faculty at WVU had worked together under a Kellogg Community Partnership Program Grant to sample and analyze tributary water in the Left Fork watershed of the Mud. Four separate samplings had found significant bacterial contamination in the tributaries. This research prompted EPA’s funding.
The EPA Project didn’t actually begin until 2004. By that time personnel at the University had changed and Ric MacDowell, the Lincoln County WVU Extension Agent, had been assigned as the Project’s Principal Investigator. When the original EPA funding was finished, additional funds from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection allowed the Green Wastewater Project to continue. MacDowell left WVU Extension in 2010, but remained as Project Director until late 2015 when final state funding ended.
The Lincoln County Commission was the recipient of all funds, ultimately managing the projects.
At its heart the project was about cleaning up the Left Fork tributaries by installing individual home wastewater systems which met a “green”, higher tech criteria. In the end, 117 homes received new wastewater systems. Systems were installed under 5 separate Phases. Total cost of system components, installation, and administration was $4,116,734. The average home installation cost including system component, contractor costs and contractor wages was $23,445. All costs were covered by federal or state funding. Homeowners received their systems for free.
Numerous research studies, technical and component analyses, and project reports helped share findings from sampling and field studies. Many of those are included here. These have led to changes in state regulations and technologies.
The Left Fork community has been an equal partner since the beginning of the project. All finances, including staff salaries, were shared with the community. 200 different local people participated in monthly meetings at the local volunteer fire department. Citizens designed the criteria for deciding who would ultimately receive systems and served on bidding committees to award contracts. In order to help insure long-term maintenance of the new systems, the community established a local non-profit Wastewater Management Association. It makes sure systems are routinely inspected and maintained. Though the projects have ended the Wastewater Management Association continues under local leadership.
Numerous organizations and individuals have played a vital role in these projects, especially the Lincoln County Commission and the citizens of the Left Fork of the Mud River. The successes of the last decade happened because of their dedication, leadership, and perserverance.