2017-09-13 / Letters

Water supply & mining

Dear Editor:

The simplest truths are often the most complex. Take, for example, the fact that water flows along the path of least resistance. That simple truth has enormous consequences in terms of storm runoff, erosion control, crop irrigation, road building, even plumbing. I have spent a lifetime studying this simple fact of water, but I always find there’s more to it than meets the eye.

The warm springs in Berkeley Springs State Park are the reason this town was settled. The water drew people here centuries ago and it’s still an important economic factor driving business growth today. It’s a necessary public utility we spend millions of dollars on to ensure an ample and pure supply. Most of us accept that protection of our water is crucial for keeping our community vibrant and growing.

I was part of the local group a few years back that helped get funds to have experts from USGS and WVU study the springs. These experts mapped and tested the groundwater and the springs. They concluded that the area under consideration for mining is part of the zone of influence for the springs, which is shaped like a three dimensional cone tilted toward the south.

Anyone that remembers the multi-year drought we experienced a few years ago, remembers we brought water from Hancock because the spring flow was cut by almost half.

The experts noted the connections between conditions on the surface and deep underground had a lag time of 18 months.

The experts and their reports taught me a lot about our water, including things about the geology and the groundwater that supplies the warm springs. One thing I learned is, surprise, water flows along the path of least resistance.

When rock layers are blasted away and pits are dug deep into bedrock, new paths of least resistance are created. Since more water comes from the south, mining probably wouldn’t dry up the springs quickly, or even completely. But if a drought can reduce spring flow by half, so can a deep pit close to the source of our drinking water.

WV DEP needs to hold a public meeting here to listen to concerns and explain to us what will happen if our water supply is depleted if they grant a permit to mine close to town.

Let DEP know you are concerned.

Rebecca MacLeod

Berkeley Springs

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