Crews break ground on once stalled Sullivan County water project

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – Within the next 10 months, people who live in the Denton Valley community of Sullivan County should have clean drinking water and fire protection, according to engineers.

Tuesday, five years after we first started investigating the lack of progress on the federally-funded clean water project, crews held a ceremonial groundbreaking.

“We’ve been waiting a long time,” resident Jim Potter said. “We’re tickled to death.”

A $2.1 million federal grant delivered in 2008 almost expired in 2013 before crews could deliver a single drop of clean drinking water to more than 110 homes in Denton Valley, but then our Community Watchdog investigation helped revive the project. We tested wells and found E. coli, which prompted lawmakers to put pressure on the federal government to extend the project and freeze the money in 2013.

“I think that’s what totally saved the project,” Intermont Utility District President Larry Barker said. “I had doubts that this day would ever get here.”

Concerned about contaminated wells, homeowners in Denton Valley collect rain water to wash their dishes and clothes and buy bottled water to drink. They knew the federal government earmarked money to give them water, but learned from us the project stalled due to a lack of infrastructure in nearby Virginia, where the actual water provider is located.

“I’m thankful that folks who presently don’t have drinking water available, a safe dependable supply, within a year will have that supply finally to their taps,” Washington County Service Authority General Manager Robbie Cornett said.

Barker said he is thankful homeowners have remained patient.

“I’ve got to know a lot of them. They’re patient, thank goodness,” he said. “It’s been a long, 10, 11-year project that we had a nightmare about, but it’s coming and it’s going to be here.”

Crews expect to officially start moving dirt in November.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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