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Water supplies OK in county for now, Berkeley officials say

April 04, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Because of constant growth in Berkeley County, current water supplies will last for three years and sewer officials say they will always be a step behind bringing service to new customers.

Officials with the Berkeley County Public Service District gave presentations to the Berkeley County Commission Thursday evening.

Bill Stubblefield, with the water district, said he had good news, not-so-good news and better news.

On the good side, he said the drought, the worst the area experienced in 100 years, appears to be over, and two wells in the county are at near record levels.

The bad news, he said, is that the current water supply will last for three years, if new sources are not found.

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He said, however, that water officials are talking to quarry officials about obtaining water, which could increase that time period to nine years. Also, using classified data from the U.S. Geological Survey, he said a new water source of "substantial quantity" may be found.

Maryland previously gave the water district permission to increase its daily intake from the Potomac River from 2.8 million to 4 million gallons of water a day.

With just one intake plant on the river, that increase has not been possible, Stubblefield said.

On average, 4 million gallons of water a day are being used throughout the county, but the water district has the capacity to deliver 4.5 million gallons a day, by using a variety of sources, Stubblefield said.

Assuming no large industry moves in, water officials know how many more people can tap into the system. The average household uses around 180 gallons of water a day, said Paul Fisher, executive director of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District.

"There's no reason to be alarmed," Stubblefield told the commissioners.

On the sewage side, officials said sewer lines can only be extended to developed areas, not to areas where growth is predicted.

Couple that with staggering statistics - in the year 2000, of all the building permits issued in the state's 55 counties, 20 percent were for Berkeley County - and it's evident sewer officials "will always be one step behind," said Walt Sebert, executive director of the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District.

"We can't build it and then they come," he said.

Less than half of the county's residents have a public sewer hook-up, he said.

On a separate sewer-related issue, Norwood Bentley, legal counsel for the county, asked Sebert whether sewer officials are taking up too much of people's yards to lay piping. Bentley said he has heard complaints.

Sebert replied that taking up that space is necessary because of the heavy equipment involved.

Any grass or driveway material disturbed will be replaced, and repaired for up to two years if necessary, Sebert said.

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