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Berkeley County, W.Va., water restrictions widen

August 09, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The two largest water suppliers in Berkeley County placed mandatory restrictions on water use Monday as the region copes with its worst drought in 70 years.

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The Berkeley County Public Service District enacted emergency restrictions for its 5,500 customers in the southeastern part of Berkeley County, public service district General Manager Dan Campbell said.

The City of Martinsburg decided to continue water restrictions that were instituted Aug. 6 after a cracked water line caused the city to lose about 2 million gallons of water.

"Our reservoir is full again, but given the current situation, we decided to continue with the mandatory restrictions for at least the next several days," said Steve Knipe, supervisor of Martinsburg's water and sewer department.

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About 6,000 customers receive water from the City of Martinsburg water system.

Among the restrictions are bans on watering lawns, washing cars and cleaning sidewalks. Restaurants are prohibited from giving customers water unless they ask for it.

The restriction order from the Berkeley County Public Service District is the first Campbell has seen in his 27 years with the district.

The Hedgesville and Opequon public service districts had not enacted mandatory water restrictions as of Monday night.

The Opequon Public Service District has not had any problems drawing water from the Potomac River for its 4,200 customers and has no plans for usage restrictions, Opequon General Manager Richard Beegle said.

"That could all change with the stroke of a pen," he said.

An order by Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening to cut river water use or a statewide water conservation order by West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood would force Opequon to impose restrictions, Beegle said.

While the state of Maryland ordered emergency conservation measures last week, West Virginia officials have opted to leave any water restrictions in the hands of local governments.

The Hedgesville Public Service District has not imposed mandatory restrictions for the 1,300 customers on its system, Hedgesville General Manager Taylor Whittington said.

Monday's decision by the Berkeley County Public Service District to put into place water restrictions was prompted by both the severe drought conditions and the water main break in the City of Martinsburg, Campbell said.

The Berkeley County Public Service District draws water from Le Fevre Spring in Bunker Hill, W.Va., but production at the spring has dropped from its normal level of 3,000 gallons per minute to 1,200 gallons per minute, Campbell said.

Water levels at several limestone quarries the district uses also have dropped, he said.

The situation worsened for the Berkeley County Service District Aug. 6 when the water main break in the City of Martinsburg's system forced the city to stop selling water to the Service District, Campbell said.

Martinsburg had been selling the district about 400,000 gallons of water per day since July but halted those sales as part of the city's water restrictions, Knipe said.

A 15-foot split along a water line that carries water from Big Spring to the city caused the city to lose 2 million gallons, the equivalent of about two-thirds of the city's daily use by its customers. An estimated $5,200 worth of water was lost in the break.

The city will not resume water sales to the Berkeley County Public Service District until the restrictions are lifted, Knipe said.

"We want to make sure everything is stable with our system," Knipe said.

City officials will reassess the water situation on a daily basis this week, Knipe said.

The Berkeley County Public Service District restrictions will remain in place until the region gets "a significant amount of rain," Campbell said.

"We would need to get at least 5 or 6 inches of rainfall," Campbell said.

Berkeley County recorded 25.7 inches of rainfall for the 12-month period ending June 30, about 12 inches below its 12-month normal of 37.3 inches.

There have been no reports of violations of the water restrictions in the first four days they've been in effect, Knipe said.

Penalties for repeated violations of the water ban include temporary loss of water service and a 10 percent surcharge on the violator's water bill, according to the Martinsburg and Berkeley County Public Service District guidelines.

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