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Moratorium on water taps in Berkeley Springs is official

September 30, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - The Town of Bath received approval last week for the moratorium on new water taps at Berkeley Springs Water Works, the town-owned water department.

The approval came from the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) on Sept. 22, and it is retroactive to March 5, said Kevin Hancock, the water department superintendent.

The town has a $1.8 million water pipe replacement project in the works, and Hancock said about 98 percent of the town's leaking water pipes will be replaced. The project is to start sometime next year.

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More than 50 percent of water is being lost through the 100-year-old pipes, prompting the Bath Town Council to unanimously approve the moratorium Feb. 23. It was filed March 4 with the PSC.

In May, town officials learned the moratorium request "must be taken care of by an attorney," Hancock said previously, and it had not gone into effect because the PSC had not approved it, he said.

About 12 water taps have been hooked up since Feb. 23, but they were approved before that date and therefore the moratorium did not apply, Hancock said.

Hancock said by PSC regulations, Berkeley Springs Water Works cannot turn down single water tap requests until the moratorium is official. There have been 26 requests for new water tap hookups since Feb. 23, he said.

The customers making the requests were told the new taps would not be done until the water pipe replacement project was completed, which has left many customers furious, Hancock said.

It also has been frustrating for the water department, Hancock said, and he told this to the PSC.

Hancock received a fax on Aug. 2 from Geert Bakker, a chief utilities manager in the water and wastewater division of the PSC.

Bakker suggested the town "not accept any new request for water service until a final order has been received."

Hancock said Bakker told him this information Aug. 1, but Hancock requested it in writing.

Don Kyne, a Berkeley Springs homeowner, filed a letter Aug. 8 with the PSC stating that his request for water service that he had submitted three weeks before had been denied by the Berkeley Springs water department. He asked for a waiver on the moratorium.

In a memorandum dated Aug. 16, Cassius H. Toon, a PSC staff attorney, concurred with the PSC technical staff that there currently is no commission-approved moratorium, and the request for service by Don Kyne be honored.

Hancock said he contacted the town's attorney, Richard Gay, who on Aug. 22 wrote a letter to the PSC explaining Kyne should not be approved for water hookup since 25 customers requested it before him, and he should not receive his hookup until the 25 requests are honored.

Gay wrote, "the reason for the moratorium in the first instance is because of the Berkeley Springs Water Department's lack of capacity due, in major part, to leakage in the old water system which is now being remedied through a replacement of the water lines."

The PSC reversed the request. On Sept. 19, Toon wrote that after reviewing the comments by Gay, "Staff withdraws the comment regarding honoring the request for service. Staff is of the opinion that the immediate denial of new services is justified."

Kyne declined to comment Thursday.

When some of the leaking pipes are replaced and if the pumping capacity falls to 80 percent, the moratorium could be lifted, Hancock said. The pumps are working at 97 percent capacity now.

Hancock said for those people who cannot wait, "even if you drill a well, you have the option of getting a water hookup once the moratorium is lifted."

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