County seeks proposals to find second public water source

by Kate Shunney

The Morgan County Commission will establish a Request for Proposals (RFP) for work to drill an exploratory deep well and identify a secondary water source for the Berkeley Springs Water Works for the county seat’s public water system.

Commissioners voted to proceed with that step as several elected officials from the Town of Bath looked on last Wednesday, March 20. The Town of Bath owns the Berkeley Springs Water Works.

Finding a secondary public water source was a bargaining piece two years ago as the Morgan County Commission approached the Town of Bath to join in a joint water and sewer line extension project along U.S. 522.

Financing an extension of both utilities at once made economic sense, the county argued, and would attract economic development.

Bath officials stipulated they would be part of the project as long as the county helped find a backup water supply in case current water supplies got depleted, and as long as the project didn’t cause a rate increase on their existing water customers.

Commissioner Sean Forney was a champion of the joint utility project early on and said last week that there was recently a meeting with “stakeholders” in the project.

Forney said he has been reminded many times of the county’s promise to help locate a secondary water source.

Commissioners agreed previously to have a deep well drilled on 16 acres of forested land they own south of the 522 Ballfield Complex on the west side of U.S. 522.

Rebecca MacLeod, councilwoman for the Town of Bath, last week asked commissioners to consider looking for springs in the area, not just well water.

She said the cost of capturing a flowing spring would be lower than drilling, and the water treatment costs over the life of the water source would likely be lower, too.

MacLeod referred to a 2004 geology report that was part of the work of a Rural Water Committee locally. That committee recommended at that time a second public water source should be identified for the central part of the county.

She said springs were identified near the county’s 16 acres at that time.

Commissioner Joel Tuttle said he thought looking at a spring option versus drilling a deep well could “slow down the process” for the town’s priority of finding a source.

MacLeod said a spring source that is close to the quality found in Berkeley Springs State Park would likely save the town money in treatment costs over the long term.

Commissioner Forney warned that he didn’t want the project to find a secondary source “to turn into something it isn’t” – namely developing the Water Works secondary source to their specifications.

Commissioner Bill Clark said it was worth looking at the costs and availability of each water source. In regard to finding water on the east side of U.S. 522 between the road and Warm Springs Ridge, Clark said the odds were very good.

“It exists there. It’s just a matter of where we stick our straw,” he said.

“Even if it’s not enough to supply public water, it might be enough to supply a facility on that property,” MacLeod said of the county’s land. County officials had previously talked about building a full recreation complex on that property.

“We’re not going to lose on this investment,” Clark said of the water search.