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Martinsburg relaxes water restrictions

August 18, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The City of Martinsburg is loosening the water restrictions that have been in place since Aug. 6 after about 2 million gallons of water leaked from a cracked pipe.

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While water levels returned to normal a few days after the water line was repaired, the city has been concerned about severe drought conditions across the Eastern Panhandle.

"We don't want to completely lift the restrictions, then find ourselves in another emergency situation," Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin said.

Under the revised water rationing plan, restrictions will be lifted for city water customers on the days their garbage is picked up.

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For instance, those who have their trash picked up on Mondays and Thursdays will be allowed to water their lawns, gardens and shrubs on those two days while the rest of the city remains under the mandatory restrictions.

Water restrictions will be lifted on Tuesdays and Fridays for customers whose trash is picked up on those days.

The 500 city water customers who do not have garbage pickup will be allowed to resume normal water usage on Mondays and Thursdays.

"These new rules will allow people to wash their cars and water their lawns a couple times a week, and at the same time, it still gives our water system a break," Baldwin said.

The mandatory water rationing rules in Martinsburg will remain in effect citywide for the system's 6,000 customers on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

The city on Wednesday also lifted water restrictions on car washes and has told restaurants, clubs and eateries they can resume serving water to customers.

Five warnings have been issued for water violations since the restrictions went into effect Aug. 6 and no repeat violators have been found, Baldwin said.

"The public has been very cooperative with this plan," he said.

Martinsburg resumed selling water to the Berkeley County Public Service District on Monday, but restrictions for that district's 5,500 customers have not been lifted.

The Berkeley County Public Service District began water restrictions Aug. 9 after the Martinsburg water break forced the city to stop selling it 400,000 gallons per day.

The city is now selling the district about 200,000 gallons of water a day, Baldwin said.

Water production at the district's Bunker Hill, W.Va., spring has been cut in half by the drought and water levels at several limestone quarries in the district have dropped below normal.

"The restrictions have helped, but our situation hasn't improved any," Berkeley County Public Service District General Manager Dan Campbell said.

The Hedgesville Public Service District has not enacted mandatory restrictions, although district manager Taylor Whittington said rationing is likely if drought conditions do not improve.

"We're monitoring this on a daily basis," Whittington said.

Like Martinsburg, Hedgesville lost about 2 million gallons of water earlier this month after a cracked pipe spilled water beneath W.Va. 9 before the leak was discovered Aug. 10.

The Hedgesville system has about 1,300 customers on its water system.

Water supplies have not been a problem for the Opequon Public Service District, which draws out of the Potomac River for its 4,200 customers.

Berkeley County received 19.67 inches of precipitation between Jan. 1 and July 30, compared to a normal for the period of 22.6 inches, according to a county weather observer.

The number is skewed by a wet January and a July that brought several heavy but small storms to Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, where data is gathered, he said.

Over a 12-month period ending June 30, both Berkeley and Jefferson counties are about 13 inches below normal.

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