Government, News

County to explore secondary water source for public system

by Kate Shunney

Projecting ahead to an extension of public water and sewer lines south along U.S. 522, county officials have started talking about finding a second public water source for the central portion of Morgan County.

The Berkeley Springs Waterworks, owned by the Town of Bath, is the sole public water source for Berkeley Springs residents and businesses.

When county commissioners approached the Town of Bath about extending their water lines south along U.S. 522 in tandem with sewer lines, the topic of water supply was at the front of the discussion.

“One of their concerns was locating a secondary water source,” said Commission President Sean Forney.

Bath councilman Chris Chapman confirmed that exploring other sources of water is a priority for the town as the water system grows. Their discussion came at the November 16 commission meeting.

“Not having a backup source makes us vulnerable,” Chapman said.

Warm springs in the Berkeley Springs State Park are the source of water for the Berkeley Springs Waterworks.

“I agree with Chris, though I have no doubt the springs will keep pumping,” Forney said.

Forney said he wants the county to request proposals from local qualified well drillers to drill test wells on the county-owned property south of the U.S. 522 ballfield complex.

Commissioner Bill Clark said the county had tackled the question of a secondary public water source in the last 20 years, and had drilled some test wells along Rock Gap Road.

“They hit really good quantity but after a while they started pumping sand out,” said Clark.

Geologists at the time had studied the hydrology of the area, in part to find the recharge area for the springs, in hopes of protecting their flow.

Commissioner Joel Tuttle asked about the capacity of the current water treatment plant, located on Wilkes Street in Berkeley Springs.

Ron Janniney, superintendent of the Waterworks, said the plant is designed to treat surface water – which is what the spring water from the park is considered.  Water treatment would be different for well water, he said.

Forney said with the improvements made in the Town of Bath water system in the last decade, he’s confident the public system can handle more customers. Before pipes were replaced, the town was losing sometimes up to 50% of its treated water through leaks, and had to stop offering new taps for a time.

Chapman said engineers have looked at the water system’s capacity.

“A Thrasher study confirmed we have the capacity, but there’s always a fear that something could go wrong,” he said. Chapman said extending water lines makes it important to have a backup source.

Janniney agreed.

“Since becoming water superintendent, I have been concerned about a second source,” he said.

Commissioners said they would look for guidance on where to drill deep test wells on the east side of U.S. 522 south of the ballfields to see if that property could be a source of backup water for a growing water system.