The city of Fairmont is considering banning private wells. This is troubling for several reasons.
First and foremost, it seems clear the city has gotten itself into a pickle by building - overbuilding? - a $31 million water treatment plant. It has to be paid for, and the city seems prepared to do just about anything to make sure it is. Water rates have been rising for several years.
Amid the drought, with water usage restricted, the water department is seeing less revenue, creating a financing headache when it comes to paying for the new plant. The city can claim assorted reasons for wanting to ban private wells, but the fundamental one is that it wants to capture revenue from captive consumers. Some of them, on the other hand, would like their own wells, for purposes like watering lawns and gardens. This would help them during the drought, and also when local water restrictions are eventually lifted. It is far cheaper to use well water than to keep paying for city water.
The city's attitude seems to be that its monopoly on the water supply should be absolute. It is charging more for water, so when consumers seek alternatives, the city moves toward banning those choices. But as a letter to the editor on this page notes, it doesn't make sense to use chemically treated water when raw well water would better serve the purposes intended.
That letter also goes a long way in shooting down city concerns about hazardous material getting into the groundwater supply through private wells.
We do not support a ban on private wells in Fairmont. It is simply too backward and too onerous.