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W.Va. seeks to prevent water quality programs

December 03, 1998|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The threat of contaminated drinking water was not enough to fill a classroom at James Rumsey Technical Institute Wednesday afternoon.

A handful of interested citizens turned out to hear a pair of geologists outline plans to assess potential sites of water contamination in West Virginia.

"What we're hoping to do is prevent problems from occurring in the future," state geologist William J. Toomey said.

Toomey said the state's Bureau for Public Health is in the process of fulfilling a federal mandate that requires states to implement a source water assessment program by 2003.

With almost 1,300 water sources in West Virginia, Toomey said the state must identify the location of those sources and potential problems with everything from abandoned mines to underground storage tanks.

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Once contamination sources are identified, the state must address ways to reduce the chances of them affecting the water, Toomey said.

Taking steps to prevent contamination not only protects human health, but can drastically reduce cleanup costs associated with contaminated water sites, he said.

Wednesday's presentation in Martinsburg was the third in a series of five forums around the state. State geologist Reuben Gillispie said about 15 people showed up at presentations in Wheeling and Morgantown. He said he was not surprised by the low turnouts.

"It's not a real controversial issue," Gillispie said.

Gail Lake of Shepherdstown was curious about the potential threats to her drinking water if computers go on the fritz in the year 2000.

Lake said her community Y2K committee is concerned that water quality would suffer if computers fail and allow sewage to spill into the drinking supply.

"We know a computer failure would have an effect, but we don't know how," Lake said.

Toomey said the state must submit an assessment program draft plan to the Environmental Protection Agency by February.

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