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Water supply a source of concern

June 20, 1998|By CLYDE FORD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As a homeowner, Jackie Avey King likes her well water.

It smells a little like sulfur, but it's free and it's not heavily chlorinated like public water.

As president of King Street Realty, she also likes public water lines, seeing them as opportunities for growth.

"A lot of people moving out from the city don't like the idea of well water. They think if it's not public water, it's not potable," King said.

Berkeley County and West Virginia officials are looking at a plan to provide more public water lines throughout the county, enough to serve all the future needs of the county, said Berkeley County Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham.

With water coming from the Potomac River and various springs in the county, Dunham said it would appear there is enough to go around.

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In 1996, however, there wasn't enough for Frito-Lay Inc.

The company wanted to build an 800-job snack plant in the south end of Berkeley County that would use 3 million gallons of water a day.

"There wasn't enough water out there to supply them," Dunham said.

The company picked Lynchburg, Va., instead, where the firm could move right in, Dunham said.

"We have to be ready the next time a Frito-Lay wants to come here," Dunham said.

Another part of the county's plan is to build a water main down the west side of the Interstate 81 from the King Street exit to Tabler Station Road, Dunham said.

"There's 3,000 acres in there that would be opened up to development," Dunham said.

The residents in that area and in many other parts of the county get their water now from private wells.

If public water was available, developers could build homes on smaller, quarter-acre lots, King said.

Richard Beegle, general manager of the Opequon Public Service District, said that the water line proposals could cost $9 million.

Increasing the capacity of the Opequon treatment plant, another part of the plan, could be another $9 million, he said.

Some funding could come from federal or state grants, Beegle said.

No one knows yet how the project would affect customer's bills, Beegle said.

In West Virginia, a homeowner is required to connect to a public sewer line if it is within 300 feet of his home, Beegle said.

There is no such rule about water, he said.

"You can lay all the line you want, but no one has to hook on to it," Beegle said.

Beegle said he thinks it would be a good idea for residents to hook onto water lines because wells can go dry or become polluted.

"The biggest problem is pollution from the septic tanks," Beegle said.

Anna Puffenburger, of Back Creek Valley, W.Va., said she would not connect to public water even if a water line was nearby.

"Our well water tastes real good. It's been there for 50 years and we have had it tested a couple of times. We don't have the bacteria and other stuff they say contaminates the wells.

"I cannot stand the taste of public water and I don't like the idea of paying the government any more of my money," Puffenburger said.

Right now the ambitious plan is an idea proposed by the three Public Service Districts in the county.

The county commissioners approved the idea on June 2 and sent it to the state where it will be reviewed by the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council, the Bureau of Public Health and Office of Environmental Health Services.

A public hearing is expected to be held in July. A firm date or location has not been announced.

This kind of project will take years to plan and complete, Beegle said.

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