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EPA honors Berkeley County for water efforts

July 19, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Environmental Protection Agency has honored a Berkeley County task force for its interest and effort in protecting drinking water sources.

"Along with the air we breathe, drinking water is the most precious resource we have," Richard Rogers, chief of the Drinking Water Branch for the EPA's Mid-Atlantic region, told the Berkeley County Commission during an award presentation Thursday.

One water conservation award was given for each of the region's five states and the District of Columbia. The Berkeley County Source Water Task Force was the West Virginia winner.

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Development and a lack of rain make water conservation even more important, Rogers said.

"Rampant growth without planning for the future is a very hard thing to fix before it's too late ..." Rogers said. "The best thing about (the task force) is it's getting done before it's too late."

In June 2001, a division of the University of Maryland and the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health started the task force to take a regional look at water protection.

A federal grant let universities in New Mexico, Maryland, Idaho, New York and North Carolina start pilot conservation programs.

Over the past year, the Berkeley County Source Water Task Force has listed local water sources and the possible contaminants affecting each.

Over the next year, the task force will discuss ways to minimize the dangers that could hurt water quality and quantity.

The task force currently includes representatives from Berkeley County, the city of Martinsburg, the Canaan Valley Institute, the U.S. Geological Survey, the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health and the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Task force member Bill Alexander, chairman of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District, said officials from Jefferson County, W.Va., and Frederick County, Va., are involved too, because "water does not respect political boundaries whatsoever."

The emphasis has shifted from removing contaminants at water treatment plants to preventing contaminants from getting in the water, said William Toomey, the manager of the Source Water Assessment Program for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health's Office of Environmental Health Services.

The Bureau for Public Health nominated the Berkeley County task force for the award.

Last year, the city of Martinsburg received the award.

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