CHESTER -- The water smells bad on Darby Road, residents say. Tastes bad, too.
Water officials say it's not lethal, but the mineral-laden water from the area's wells stains laundry. Some of the 42 affected neighbors even buy drinking water to bring to their country homes.
But Chester County leaders hope to change that.
A public hearing is scheduled Monday for residents to share their water woes with county officials. The session will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the R. Carlisle Roddey Government Complex on the J.A. Cochran Bypass.
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The solution to the Darby Road problem, leaders say, is extending a water line to the community. But water district officials say the cost of the water service and fire protection project is about $726,000.
That's why county leaders want residents to attend Monday's hearing. The meeting is part of a process that local officials must go through before applying for a Community Development Block Grant -- federal funding that is channeled through the state -- to help pay for the water line.
"We're hoping a lot of them will come out and say, 'Please help us,'" said Grazier Rhea, the community development director for the Catawba Regional Council of Governments. "So that that (water line) will be at the top of the county's list of needs."
The Chester Metropolitan District, which distributes water to much of the county, started looking at the Darby Road problems in August 2006 after a resident's well ran dry, district engineer Fred Castles III said.
As water officials delved into the matter, they learned about residents' problems with the unpleasant water, which contains high amounts of iron.
But in order to extend the district's water line 12,000 feet to Darby Road, the county will have to expand the boundaries of the water district to include the area, Castles said. More importantly, the county must find a way to fund the project.
"We're really hoping that this funding comes through," Castles said of the grant. "Without it, I don't know if we could do it."
To get the grant, the county will have to compete with other communities throughout the state, Rhea said.
The county can apply for up to $500,000 in grant funding, she said, but only $7 million is allocated statewide for these types of projects under the grant program.
The grants are designed to benefit low- to moderate-income residents, Rhea said. Grant funding helped provide water and sewer pipes to A Place Called Hope community center on Blackmon Road, an impoverished community just outside Rock Hill.
Many residents who live along Darby Road, a path in the northeastern section of the county near Old York Road, are senior citizens, said Chester County Councilwoman Mary Guy, who has worked on the water issues for more than a year.
She met with residents last year, and one woman even spoke to the County Council about the problem.
"Some people thought it was a dead issue," said Guy, who represents the area that includes Darby Road. "But it wasn't."
Guy said it's critical that residents come to Monday's hearing.
"Even if they don't talk," she said, "it's very important that they come because that shows interest."