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Berkeley County gets $25 million sewer loan

October 07, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Thanks to a $25 million loan delivered to Berkeley County's sewer service office Monday morning by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, county officials will be able to expand sewer service into northern Berkeley County without being forced to increase customer rates to pay for the work.

During a meeting Monday morning at the Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District office off Edwin Miller Boulevard, Capito delivered the $25 million loan, which was secured through the USDA Rural Development office in Morgantown, W.Va.

The loan will allow the sewer district to extend sewer service from a point between U.S. 11 and Interstate 81 near the Quad Graphics Co. Inc. plant north to the Marlowe, W.Va., area, said Bob Grove, chairman of the district's board of directors.

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Between 1,600 and 2,000 customers will be served by the new extension, which also will include a new treatment plant, Grove said.

The project is part of an ongoing effort to expand sewer service throughout the county and reduce homeowners' reliance on septic systems, thereby protecting groundwater, Grove said.

A well-water study released in December 2000 suggested that wells in some sections of the county had more than a 60 percent chance of being contaminated with bacteria.

The report said the bacteria could be coming from failing residential septic systems.

The Berkeley County Public Service Sewer District has been working to install sewer lines from the southern tip to the northern tip of the county, and the Marlowe leg of the project will make the effort about 80 percent complete, said Walt Sebert, executive director of the district.

Once the main line to the northern tip of the county is complete, other lines can be extended to the east and west, Sebert said.

When the sewer lines reach new customers, a $350 tap fee will be waived in exchange for an easement to bring in the line, Sebert said.

The only cost to a homeowner is that of connecting the home's sewer line to the main line, Sebert said.

"Some are cheap. Some are fairly expensive," Sebert said.

Homeowners are required to connect to the sewer line if a corner of their house is within 300 horizontal feet of the main line and the residential line can be dumped into the main line by gravity, Sebert said.

The sewer district was using interest-free money from a state revolving fund for its projects, Grove said.

The $25 million loan that Capito helped to secure has a 40-year payback period, allowing the district to avoid increasing customer rates, Grove said. Customers pay about $37 per month for the service, Grove said.

Although the idea is to pay for the work with the loan, there is a chance sewer rates can increase in coming years to pay for operating costs, Sebert said.

Grove said the work to extend sewer service into the Marlowe area will take up to three years to complete.

After that project is complete, the sewer district plans to extend sewer service from the Marlowe area north to the Potomac River, Grove said.

When Capito delivered the money, she said she always is taken aback by the amount of growth in Berkeley County. She made reference to heavy equipment such as bulldozers working at sites as she arrived Monday morning.

"It just strikes me to see all the expansion that is occurring," Capito said.

Grove said the more the area grows, the more his agency has to respond by providing sewer.

"We have no choice but to meet the mandates before us," Grove said.

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