The aquaponics facility at Kermit is finally moving to the construction stage after more than two years of delays.
This news was communicated by Mingo County Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Leasha Johnson during last week’s regular MCRA meeting.
A contractor, Charleston-based Persinger & Associates, was awarded the $1.728 million contract in February. However, because the company had to wait on an AVS (automated vendor system) application to be approved by the DEP, it could undertake tree and other vegetation removal but not begin actual excavation work or facility construction until that application was approved, Johnson said.
“There was an onsite pre-construction meeting and Thrasher Engineering officials discussed with Persinger what they would expect and what the inspection schedule would be,” she said.“There already have been several questions back and forth between Persinger and Thrasher and the DEP, so I think they’re all doing a good job of being very thorough.
“But this is a unique project ... nobody has ever constructed an aquaponics facility in Mingo County before, so they’re making sure everything is being done correctly.”
Johnson said the project also received approval for its NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit on April 8 and that the MCRA additionally received notice that the project could proceed.
“So (two weeks ago) Persinger mobilized and already have begun the excavation work, and they also have ordered the greenhouse from a Texas manufacturer,” she said. “The substantial completion date we have as Aug. 15, but Persinger is hopeful — barring any unforeseen weather delays or delays with the delivery of the greenhouse — they can have it substantially completed by the end of July.
“So, if we can begin stocking the fish component of it by early August, or even late August, then it takes about two months for the bacterial colonization to get to the level that’s needed for the fertilization before we begin filling seed trays for vegetables. But we could possibly have production by the facility by the end of the year.”
The $3.6 million project, first announced just prior to Christmas in 2016, was funded by the 2016 Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot Program and the DEP.
Johnson said that, upon completion, the nearly $4 million project is initially projected to employ about 12 people and will be managed by Sprouting Farms.
The facility, which, aside from the MCRA, is being headed up by Refresh Appalachia and Coalfield Development, is being constructed on five acres at First Burning Creek just outside Kermit town limits.
In addition to being an immediate employment and training source for Mingo and nearby counties, when operational the 20,000 aquaponics facility and training center will provide fresh food for local and regional consumers, as well as represent a model that can be implemented in other coalfield communities, Johnson said.
“The $3.6 million grant we received not only gives us money to operate the facility, hopefully for at least the first two years, but also allows us the opportunity to have some cold storage and cold storage transportation vehicles that will really allow us to network with folks like Williamson Health and Wellness, the Farmer’s Market, as well as all the other distributors and farmers in the western part of Southern West Virginia,” she said.
In other business, Johnson said two recent bid processes on a $2.3 million water/sewage installation at the Appalachian Regional Airport both times came in over the acceptable bid by $430,000.