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DigDeep Pilot Project to Bring New Septic Systems to McDowell County Residents

By Derek Tyson, The Welch News Editor

MCDOWELL COUNTY, W.Va. – For residents struggling with sewage problems at their homes, DigDeep wants to offer a helping hand.

“DigDeep wants to do an upfront pilot project to install 35 septic systems or on-site wastewater treatment systems at homes that are never going to be served by larger sewage projects,” said Al Smith, a wastewater engineer that traveled from Colorado to help get the project moving forward.

DigDeep started with a similar number on their water project, but now have helped almost 190 homes connect to new water service brought in by McDowell County PSD’s Phase II Elkhorn Creek Water Project.

“35 is just the beginning,” said Bob McKinney, Regional Manager of DigDeep. “DigDeep is going to pay for the new sewage systems and installation. We just need to find homeowners in need of septic systems.”

Recent studies and other assessments of the area quickly identify infrastructure such as water and sewage utilities as a dire need for many residents. While there are large-scale projects to address sewage problems in certain areas, DigDeep wants to reach the outlying families outside of feasible range for catch-all solutions.

“DigDeep isn’t coming in to say ‘You need to change your septic system,’ we want you to desire to have this,” said Susan Lamb, DigDeep Project Coordinator. “We realize that the community is a partner in this and also our clients in this project.”

“If someone has experience with sewage backing up into their property or home, that’s exactly who we want to partner with to identify steps to fixing the problem,” continued Lamb.

“If they’ll be hooked up to a sewage system in the near future, that’s not really who we look for,” said Smith. “We’re looking for those that are off grid to a degree, with well water or hauling water to their homes in outlying areas outside of feasible large-scale sewage solutions.”

The process begins with a call to DigDeep’s local office. A visit will be scheduled for DigDeep to meet with the homeowner on location to conduct an interview and survey the site.

“If they’re eligible, Dig Deep has the funding to complete the sanitation project, whether it’s fixing an existing system or replacing it depending upon conditions,” said Al Smith. “DigDeep will hire a contractor or come in themselves to install new piping, septic tank, a leech field depending on the site characteristics, or a discharge-to-surface system such as sites with bedrock everywhere.”

DigDeep has also collaborated with the McDowell County Health Department and with various State Departments to ensure the new systems will be completely legal and properly permitted.

“DigDeep isn’t going to just wash their hands and leave,” said Smith about once work is completed. “They will also provide participants with training materials and resources for residents. The goal is to leave the homeowners better off than they were and to also leave the environment off better than it was before.”

To inquire about the project or to learn more, please call DigDeep’s local office at (681) 201-2030 today.

The Dig Deep Right to Water Project is the only WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) organization serving the nearly 2 million Americans who still don’t have a tap or toilet at home. Founded in Los Angeles in 2012, Dig Deep believes access to clean water is a human right and has done work across the nation.