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Martinsburg asks residents to cut back on water use

March 05, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Martinsburg City Council during a special meeting Monday voted unanimously in favor of implementing voluntary water restrictions for the city's water users .

The city supplies water to about 15,000 people, said Stephen Knipe, utilities director for Martinsburg.

The city has asked consumers to refrain from watering outdoor shrubbery with a hose, washing streets and vehicles (excluding commercial car washes because they recycle water), nonessential flushing of hydrants and sewer lines unless there are health and safety concerns and watering sports areas such as fields and golf courses. Restaurants are asked not to fill water glasses unless requested by customer.

They have also asked consumers to locate and repair all leaks, keep bottled water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap, and to look into water saving devices such as faucets and toilets designed to conserve water.

Knipe said he plans to work with the Martinsburg Fire Department to find alternative ways for the department to test its equipment and fire hydrants.

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The voluntary restrictions are a result of the 15- to 18-inch precipitation deficit in the area, which has reduced the water levels in the city's water supply at Kilmer Springs and Big Springs, Knipe said.

Water pumped from Kilmer Springs into the Baltimore William Street plant has been reduced from 4 million to 3 million gallons a day to 1.8 million gallons a day, he said.

Big Springs, which pumps water into the Big Springs plant, is currently pumping 900,000 gallons a day down from its normal 1.3 million gallons a day.

Knipe said the aquifer has been dropping steadily.

The precipitation from the weekend was less than an inch and did little to help the water supply.

"It was a help, but we need a lot more than that," Knipe said.

Martinsburg Mayor George Karos inquired about the use of Thomas quarry as a possible source of water.

Knipe said the last time the quarry was used was in 1968. It was discontinued because the city did not have a filtration plant, and the water was a surface water source which can contain harmful bacteria.

Last year the city approved a project that would give the city two new water treatment facilities with filtration systems. Before the filtration system the plants could only treat the water with chlorine and other additives used to make water safe for consumption.

The Big Springs plant went online last Thursday, but due to computer glitches it was taken offline Friday afternoon. It will be online periodically this week, and fully online next week, Knipe said.

The Baltimore William Street plant will be fully online late today or early Wednesday, he said.

Now that the city has filtration capabilities the use of the water from the Thomas quarry is a possibility.

Knipe said he will conduct several water analyses to see what filtration is needed.

"It is a viable option if the drought continues," he said.

The quarry is a 200-million gallon reservoir that was connected by pipes to Kilmer Springs in 1948. The water level in the quarry has gone down because of the reduced levels in Kilmer Springs, Knipe said.

The city will have to purchase a pump in order to use the quarry.

Also a concern to council members was the city's ability to honor its agreement with the Berkeley County Public Service Water District, which allows the county to purchase up to one million gallons a day.

The agreement requires the county to purchase at least 200,000 gallons a day. Knipe said the county was pumping about 231,000 gallons a day in February.

"If we get cut back, everybody else gets cut back," Karos said.

Knipe said he is working closely with Berkeley County officials who are concerned about how much water the city can give them.

"They are in a much more dire need than we are," Knipe said.

The county implemented mandatory water restrictions to its 30,000 users last week.

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