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Berkeley County task force discusses water quality issues

April 12, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Berkeley County Commission was given details Thursday on the second phase of a project designed to increase the quantity and quality of water sources in the county.

The commission formed the Berkeley County Unified Source Water Assessment Protection Task Force in August to begin the project, which will develop a source water protection plan used in future planning of the county.

Phase two of the project involves community participation.

"We want the local community to be proactive in finding water sources," said Bill Alexander, chairman of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District Board.

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Phase one of the project involved gathering scientific data on water quantity and quality and creating an inventory of water sources.

Potential risks to water sources that might result from urban sprawl were part of the study, Alexander said.

Phase one was completed in March, he said.

"Phase two is where things get hairy," Alexander told the commission.

The task force wants to include members of organizations and agencies that have a significant impact on water usage.

West Virginia agencies as well as some from outside the state will be invited to participate.

"We need to have the involvement of the stakeholders. We are trying to get people with high (water) needs to get involved on how to use and protect the water," Alexander said.

Lavonne Paden, co-chair of the task force, said each participant will be asked to join a group that will examine and provide recommendations for:

-- Current and new water resources, water demand and water allocation issues.

-- Potential impact of sewer considerations on water quality.

-- Potential impact of commercial and transportation considerations on water quality including industry, transportation, landfills and hazardous materials.

-- Potential impact of development and storm water management considerations on water quality.

-- Potential impact of agriculture and wildlife considerations on water quality.

The first meeting will be June 13.

"We want a list of (possible) solutions with economic and political feasibility in place for when the results from phase one come back," Paden said.

Facilitator for the project is the Eastern Regional Environment Finance Center of the University of Maryland, which is conducting similar projects in Frederick County, Md., and in the Baltimore area.

Alexander said the West Virginia Department of Health asked the county if it would participate in the project, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The project is a follow-up to the study on well contamination conducted by the Soil Conservation District and Potomac Headwaters in 2000, Alexander said.

The 2000 well contamination study was a follow up to a 1995 U.S. Geological Survey study conducted in 1995 in which 60 percent of area wells were found to be contaminated.

Commission President Howard Strauss said the commission will discuss the issues and possibly make a decision during the next commission meeting April 18.

"I hope you will legitimize this," Alexander said.

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