Committees formed to study water issues & solutions
The Morgan County Rural Water Committee asked for citizen committees to study water issues and solutions at last week's Source Water Protection Forum.
Committees were formed for wastewater and septic/sludge, residential and commercial water, groundwater and surface water. All committees will address surrounding legal issues.
The county water forum was held at Warm Springs Middle School last Thursday evening. Around 40 people attended, including Rebecca MacLeod, area coordinator for the Potomac Headwaters RC & D, Rural Water Committee Chairman Jack Soronen, County Planner Alma Gorse and County Commissioner Brenda Hutchin-son. MacLeod spoke on Morgan County water resources and issues such as rainfall, runoff and soil.
Dave Clark from the Canaan Valley Institute discussed source water protection and led the discussion. He said
that his institute's belief was given enough information and resources that local people will make decisions to protect their water resources.
Clark has worked with other counties on their source water protection plans. Plans can include education, local regulation and ways to get the state in gear on specific issues, he said.
Joe Donovan from the WVU Hydrogeology Research Center talked about his group's study of the Cacapon Mountain watershed, major area springs and area source water and the potential for high-yield water conduits known as aquifers.
Their research focused on the geology of the Cacapon Mountain and Town of Bath groundwater flow system, spring and well water sampling and chemistry, water depth, recharge rates and seepage run studies on Sir John's Run indicating locations of springs that contributed water flow to the run.
Rural Water Committee work
The Rural Water Committee has been working for the past six years with Commissioner Tommy Swaim to project water needs 25 years into the future, said Soronen. Their committee was focused on finding and delivering water in three different areas of the county.
Water is an important subject that deserves a lot of attention, said Soronen. The county is developing a Source Water Assessment and Protection plan (SWAP). The effort will develop a book of possible threats to water quality and alternative suggestions for dealing with those threats, he said.
Examples of areas of concern are underground gasoline storage tanks, failing septic systems, stream bank erosion and emerging contaminants, said Soronen. Emerging contaminants such as estrogenic disruptors have been linked to intersex fish occurrences.
The citizen water committees will meet over the next several months to determine water concerns and possible solutions, said Soronen.
Issues raised at forum
Issues raised at the Source Water Protection Forum were increased population, water rights and ownership of the water, water quantity and quality, recharge rates for water sources, voluntary measures and restrictions, well permits and policies, bacterial contamination, water protection and tourism and recreational water uses.
Other counties that worked on source water protection plans addressed
issues such as water conservation, groundwater and source water protection, identifying current sources of
contamination, storage of chemicals and placement of sewer systems,
said Donovan. He advised prudent development that didn't deplete the water aquifer and distributed water usage so there was enough to go around.
Rainfall decrease, runoff
MacLeod discussed the overall decrease in average rainfall. The total average area precipitation was 38.7 inches and snow average was 22 inches. Area monthly rainfall averages range from about 2.2 inches to approximately 4.2 inches.
However during last year, monthly rainfall averages ranged from less than .5 inches to around 2.8 inches. Measurements from the past few years show a deficit in rainfall, said MacLeod.
There's also more runoff and less shallow and deep ground infiltration of rainfall in suburban landscapes than in undeveloped areas, said MacLeod. That means there's more runoff in streams, more erosion and a big flush if there's more asphalt, she said. Some rainfall evaporates in both suburban and undeveloped areas.
Much of the land here has shallow, shaly soil with shallow topsoil that restricted root growth and had poor water holding capacity, she said. Gardeners were familiar with these problems, she said.
MacLeod also shared data on contaminant levels found in a United States Geological Service (USGS) sampling of 91 privately owned county wells.
Some 32% of the county wells tested in the survey exceeded the secondary maximum contaminant levels for iron. All but 11 wells had iron present.
All wells tested had manganese and some 60% exceeded the recommended level.
For the survey, 29 well samples were checked for aluminum and barium. Some nine samples exceeded the recommended levels for aluminum and barium.
There were some concerns about strontium, but no concerns about antimony, arsenic, cadmium, lead, zinc and nitrate/nitrite, said MacLeod.
Of the 91 wells tested, bacterial counts showed total coliform in 42 wells, fecal coliform in five wells and E. coli in two wells.
Some 17 county wells were sampled for radon and 10 of them exceeded levels recommended by the EPA. The concern about radon in water is breathing it in as you release radon in an aerosol spray when taking a shower or opening a faucet.
Radon is a natural gas found in the ground that often seeps into homes through slab and cracks in the foundation, said Soronen. It can cause lung cancer.
Soronen said people could purchase a radon-monitoring device to measure radon levels in their home if there is a concern. The best time and place to measure levels is to place the device in their basement during the winter for the length of time indicated by the manufacturer, he said.
Committees still open
Soronen hopes that the four water committees can complete their work within three months. They will want to work further on the committees' recommendations and have a Source Water Protection plan draft ready by the end of the year, he said.
If you were unable to make the county water forum and are interested in serving on one of the committees, call Alma Gorse at 258-8540 or Rebecca MacLeod at 304-267-8953.