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Study: Development could harm Berkeley County groundwater

August 02, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - Is there a way to protect groundwater from high-density development?

Members of the Morgan County Groundwater subcommittee got some ideas from a Berkeley County commissioner this week.

"I have a passion about groundwater," Bill Stubblefield said to about 30 people at the Morgan County Commission offices Monday night.

Stubblefield spearheaded a countywide water study that began about six years ago, and as a result, a proposed law protecting Berkeley County's groundwater by controlling development in rural areas will be placed on the May 2008 ballot.

"There are a lot of places in Berkeley County that cannot sustain major development," he said.

Stubblefield said the Source Water Analysis and Protection Program (SWAP) report was done to determine the quantity and quality of water in Berkeley County.

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The study includes potential threats from wastewater, septic and sewer systems, sludge, storm water runoff and pollutants.

Stubblefield said Berkeley County is the only county in the United States to use groundwater as the criteria for home density.

The proposed ordinance would limit the number of houses per acre in rural areas and outside the public water supply, Stubblefield said.

Subdivision growth in Morgan County also is a concern, and "we need to recognize the limits and threats of our water source," said Jack Soronen, Rural Water Committee chairman.

Russell Mokhiber, a citizen member of the groundwater committee, said the group will make recommendations to the Rural Water Committee for a water study in Morgan County.

The Morgan County Commission will have to approve the study, Soronen said.

Soronen said the Rural Water Committee was set up by the Morgan County Commission about six years ago, originally to find water resources in the county. Through grants, it worked with the West Virginia Conservation Agency and the Hydrogeological Center at West Virginia University, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey.

"A consultant took all the information and a development plan for water sources was done," Soronen said. The water source projection is wells, he said.

The Rural Water Committee now is focused on the threat of contaminants in the water supply, and citizen groups were formed last month to focus on three areas - groundwater, septic systems and surface water such as streams, Soronen said.

Their findings are due at the end of September, he said.

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