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Council votes today on water treatment

March 12, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

Council votes today on water treatment

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg City Council will vote tonight on whether to take on a $7.2 million water treatment project to prevent Martinsburg's water from becoming contaminated and to clear the way for future expansion.

Water customers likely would foot part of the bill, although it's too early to tell by how much rates would increase.

A water study determined Martinsburg's ground water is under the influence of surface water, meaning anything that's on the surface has the potential to contaminate the supply at the city's water sources.

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Mayor Earnest Sparks said the water supply is not contaminated now.

"I want to assure the citizens of Martinsburg we don't have trouble with our water," Sparks said. "We tried to be proactive rather than reactive."

Filtration plants can kill any harmful bacteria that gets into the water supply. Martinsburg's water isn't filtered now. It is chlorinated, fluoridated and pumped to the distribution facilities.

"It is not a matter of choice. Filtration is required," said Larry Johnson, senior projects manager at Chester Engineers, of Gaithersburg, Md., who gave the council recommendations Wednesday night.

At a public meeting to discuss upgrades and renovations, Johnson said Kilmer Springs and Big Springs - the city's two water sources - have the best water quality and are an abundant source for Martinsburg's needs.

To filter the water and have enough capacity for growth, Chester Engineers recommended two filtration plants - a 3-million-gallon plant at the Big Springs site and a 2-million-gallon plant at the Baltimore and Williams streets site.

The plan also calls for a 1.5-million-gallon storage tank to replace the 100,000-gallon tank at Red Hill.

The city's rapid growth was a significant factor in their recommendations, Johnson said. Martinsburg currently uses 3.7 million gallons of water per day, with a peak of 5.6 million. Johnson said the city can anticipate an average 5 million gallons daily with a peak of 7.5 million in the future.

Taylor Whittington, a Martinsburg resident and general manager of the Hedgesville Public Service District, said the project is important to the city.

The increase in rates isn't an issue for him.

"I think it's a great idea, mainly because of the filtration we haven't had in the past," Whittington said. "Martinsburg water is one of the cheapest water rates in the state."

The average home in Martinsburg uses 4,500 gallons of water each month at $2.60 per 1,000 gallons.

City Manager Mark Baldwin said the state offers a 20-year loan program at 3 percent interest for drinking water upgrades.

Martinsburg is on the priority list now, he said, and quick action will ensure funding.

If approved at tonight's City Council meeting, the design phase could be complete by late this year or early next, and built by late 1999 or early 2000.

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