POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Normally growth is a good thing when talking about downtown Point Pleasant, unless talking about the mystery growth currently spreading along the flood wall murals.
“It could be bacteria, mold or algae…we don’t know yet,” Charles Humphreys, director of Main Street Point Pleasant said on Wednesday.
The idea that the growth is a cause of pollution has also been discussed but at this point, it’s all conjecture.
The growth has been appearing at the top of the flood wall and is black in nature. When it rains, the residue streaks down the murals which cost around $800,000 to place at Riverfront Park.
Humphreys said the artist who painted the murals, Robert Dafford, was called about the situation and he advised washing the stains/growth with soap and water. It’s unclear if using bleach or anything harsher, could harm the murals and no one wants to take that chance. Workers with the City of Point Pleasant used soap and water to clean along a section of flood wall near the restroom area, and although it got rid of most of the dirt on the surface, Humphreys said the cause is still there and will likely return.
Last week, Humphreys met with Mayor Brian Billings about the issue, along with River Museum Director Jack Fowler who was going to attempt to contact someone at Marshall University who may be able to help in identifying the cause and suggest a plan to deal with it. As of yesterday, Fowler hadn’t had any luck with making contact, possibly due to the fact that it’s still summer break. On Wednesday, Fowler said surely someone out there at some university or agency, like the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, may know what it is and more importantly, how to fix it before irreversible damage is done.
This week at Point Pleasant City Council, both Councilwomen Janet Hartley and Elizabeth Jones brought up the issue, with Billings then speaking about meeting with Humphreys and Fowler.
“We don’t want to do anything to damage those murals,” Billings said about waiting to hear from someone with an answer to the issue and how to proceed.
Also, at the city council meeting, it was also suggested when the city workers mow along the flood wall, to angle the mower away from the wall, to help eliminate accidentally chipping the mural paint with rocks.
Humphreys said for now, he hopes the city will continue to wash down the tops of the flood wall with soap and water while the cause of the issue is investigated. The murals, a project which began in 2005 and was completed over five subsequent summers, have become a tourist attraction in downtown Point Pleasant. The paint, which at the time cost $200 a gallon, came from Germany and had a 50-year guarantee though it was proven to last 150 years, Humphreys said.
Additions to the park continue to grow to attract more people to the area. A recent grant has allowed Main Street Point Pleasant to develop a “high tech” electronic tour of each panel on the flood wall, allowing Humphreys to share those stories through the sound system with the click of a button on an iPad. There’s also talk of possibly developing an app or some sort of way for visitors to do a self-guided tour of the murals, but, of course, it’s imperative the murals be intact.
The investment into the murals was always a long-term one because they were meant to be there for years Humphreys has said, stressing the importance of getting this problem solved sooner, rather than later.
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.