Priorities set for future public water
The Morgan County Rural Water Committee recommended a phased approach for developing public water supply systems in three priority regions in the county. A system of wells was determined to be the best option for supplying water in each region.
Engineers George Kansas and Aaron Keno of Gannett Fleming of Fairfax, Virginia presented the findings of the Morgan County Water Resources Study to the Morgan County Commissioners at their Friday, March 23 meeting.
The County Commissioners approved the recommendations of the Morgan County Rural Water Committee after the Gannett Fleming presentation. Their report is being forwarded to the Warm Springs Public Service District for their project recommendations. The report is considered a "working document."
The priority areas for a public water supply system are 1) the piece of the U.S. Route 522 corridor south of Ridersville Cycle to the Virginia state line; 2) the existing Route 9 East from Berkeley Springs toward Hedgesville to the Morgan County line and the proposed new Route 9 East section; and 3) the Great Cacapon water distribution system within the town limits, said Morgan County Rural Water Committee chairman Jack Soronen.
Each priority area was broken down into phases of implementation with each area having a source and treatment component, a distribution component or both. A total estimated cost for the five phases of the South Region water supply was $29,699,000. The implementation of the project would take place over 25-30 years.
Funding for the phased project would come from grants, low-interest loans and rate structures. Soronen didn't think the county had the resources to pay for the whole project at once.
"The beauty of the phases is that they can be implemented as needed as growth is expected to occur," said Soronen.
The committee felt that the earliest pressure for development of a public water system would be along U.S. Route 522 south of Ridersville Cycle to the Virginia state line, said Soronen. This would be the top priority water project.
The County Commissioners became concerned after the county experienced drought in 2000 and the flow level of water in the springs was noticeably decreased, said Soronen. The Morgan County Commission appointed the Rural Water Committee in May, 2001 with the tasks of finding county water sources and coming up with a temporary back-up water source for the Town of Bath in an emergency.
County Commissioner Tommy Swaim and Town of Bath Mayor Susan Webster have served on the committee along with representatives from the Berkeley Springs Water Works, the Morgan County Economic Development Authority, the Warm Springs Public Service District, the Morgan County Planning Commission, the Morgan County Solid Waste Authority, the Morgan County Health Department and U.S. Silica.
Citizen representatives from the Sleepy Creek Watershed Association and Friends of the Cacapon River were also committee members. U. S. Silica provided technical advice and education on the geology of Warm Springs Ridge, said Soronen. Jerry McGraw of Smith Nadenbousch Insurance was the original Rural Water Committee chairman before Soronen took over in 2002.
The West Virginia Conservation Agency gave the Rural Water Committee $300,000 to survey the water resources in Morgan County under the supervision of the Eastern Panhandle Soil Conservation District. Joseph D. Michael of the West Virginia Conservation Agency was instrumental in guiding the state funding for the survey to Morgan County, said Soronen.
Part of the Rural Water Committee's work was to project water demands, review surface water and groundwater source options, conduct raw water quality evaluations and look at water supply alternatives. The Rural Water Committee hired the United States Geological Services (USGS) and the West Virginia Water Institute headed by Dr. Joseph Donovan to do the primary research on the county water sources.
The United States Geological Services (USGS) tested 90 wells throughout the county for temperature and recharge rate and did a chemical analysis of the water for certain trace minerals, said Soronen. They wanted to get an understanding of the movement of water underground, he said.
The West Virginia Water Institute analyzed wells in a similar way in Cold Run Valley. Gannett Fleming used data from both agencies for the final report to show the most beneficial development of water sources, said Soronen.
The Rural Water Committee looked at groundwater sources like wells and surface water source options such as streams, rivers and ponds. They also considered the possibility of creating a reservoir, said Soronen. The committee was advised that a reservoir wasn't feasible due to the terrain, the high cost, the environmental impact and no suitable location.
Health department requirements demand that a reservoir have six months worth of projected water supply on hand so a reservoir would have to be huge, said Soronen. There are also significant treatment issues if they would be using surface water from a source like the Potomac River.
After extensive research, the decision was made to use groundwater from wells for future water supply to all priority regions. A phased implementation plan of the public water supply system with preliminary cost estimates was developed.
The possible effect of a well-based public water system on other wells along U.S. Route 522 and the springs was considered, said Soronen. The recharge area around new wells won't impact other residential wells, he said.
County Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson asked whether the county was pursuing a permit for a Potomac River intake. Having a Potomac River intake for the Great Cacapon water system was looked at, but decided against. A Potomac River intake could be put in to serve a smaller area, it was noted.
County Commissioner Tommy Swaim asked if they could get a permit now for possible future use of the Potomac River. He was advised that a permit wasn't generally requested unless there were plans to do something with it.
"Water will continue to be an issue for this county. We have been so blessed with expertise and resources to understand this critical resource," said Soronen of their study.
Soon to be online
The Morgan County Water Resources Study report will soon be available online at the Morgan County government Web site at www.morgancountywv.info under the Morgan County Planning Commission. An in-depth report on the well water analysis is expected soon.