New report suggests areas of concern for water
Whether you are a long-time resident or a newcomer to Morgan County, you may have heard the Cacapon River is "one of the cleanest rivers east of the Rockies." Even if you recognize this as a gross exaggeration, you may be shocked to know what is really in Cacapon's water.
A new U. S. Geological Survey report, found pesticides, flame retardants, pharmaceuticals and personal-care products, among other problems, in the Cacapon River. Many of these are harmful endocrine disrupters and there was even one substance, hexachlorobenzene, that was banned in 1966.
The Cacapon is not alone in its quality problems. Though Sleepy Creek was not on the West Virginia's 303D list in 2003, two tributaries — Meadow Branch, a designated trout stream, and Hand Run — are on the 2006 Total Daily Maximum Load (TMDL) list for fecal coliform bacteria.
Both the Cacapon River and Sleepy Creek are also polluted with mercury. Currently there is a statewide fish consumption restriction that limits the kind and amount of fish that can be eaten, according to West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services Resources.
The Potomac River has a "Do Not Eat" restriction for all non-game fish because of Dioxin, and nearby Sleepy Creek Lake's Yellow Bullhead is restricted because of Mercury.
In addition, Morgan County's groundwater and well water quality is under suspicion, according to another Geological Survey report commissioned by the Morgan County Rural Water Committee.
Water from the Town of Bath is the only local exception because it is treated water and consequently should always be potable. An annual water quality report appears every June in The Morgan Messenger.
What is happening?
You may be asking: How could this be? Why don't we know about these pollutants? How dangerous are they?
Truth is, most people assume that their waterways and drinking water are fine if the water doesn't look funny or smell bad. However, if water is not monitored for unseen substances and those that don't rankle the nose, no one – not scientists, not citizens — knows what is really there.
Additionally if authorities such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the W. Va. Division of Environmental Protection and County Health Departments don't have established standards, or the standards are not enforced or are voluntary, everyone is at risk. The water that people swim in, wash with and drink may be injurious to their health and they don't even know it.
However, there are red flags: Morgan County now has three reports to consider and the state is considering a Mercury Study Report. These reports give a snapshot of both surface water and groundwater conditions.
Rural Water Committee Well Study
Currently Morgan County's Rural Water Committee is trying to locate water sources to create a water distribution system that will meet the increased needs of residential development and hoped-for economic development. One of the reports they commissioned is "Hydrogeology, Aquifer Geochemistry and Ground-Water Quality in Morgan County," prepared by Carol Boughton and Kurt McCoy. This 56-page scientific report presents the results of a survey of 91 wells and eight springs. Included are detailed reports on dissolved oxygen, inorganic constituents and "transmissivity" (how fast water moves through the ground). The report will be posted on the Morgan County government website.
In Boughton's opinion, the report is important because there was little available historical data to provide a sound basis for decision making. "A developer, local utility or individual homeowner can look at this data and use it as a guide for tests that should be conducted either for protection of health or for planning of treatment facilities, or whether long-term, multiple well hydraulic tests should be conducted to determine local sustainable yield," Boughton said.
The report summary says some water "characteristics" should cause concern. Among them were radon-222, pH, turbidity, iron, manganese, aluminum and total- and fecal-coliform and E. coli bacteria. The report states: "Total coliform occurred in 42 wells, fecal coliform in 5 wells, and E.coli in 2 wells." This means that almost half of the wells tested in this study were contaminated. According to the report: "The presence of these microorganisms indicate the presence of fecal contamination and the possible presence of other harmful bacteria, viruses or other pathogens