Pocahontas County Commissioner Wants To See Baseline Study Of County Water

Marlinton, WV – Pocahontas County Commissioner Martin Saffer, concerned about the Marcellus Shale drilling activities already underway in West Virginia, feels it’s prudent for Pocahontas residents to have a baseline of county water quality before any possible drilling occurs here.

“Your water is my water in this county,” says Saffer. “What happens on your property could well affect what happens on my well or my spring, many, many miles distant from where you are.”

Saffer was speaking on the topic at the County Commission meeting Tuesday. He says tracking the flow of water in Pocahontas is a challenge not only because of the unique geology of the county that includes caves, sink holes and underground streams, but also because it’s hard to determine all the sources of water. George Bell of the Elk Headwaters Watershed Association says there is an inter basin transfer from the Cheat River into the Elk River, but possible sources of underground water are much harder to track.

Saffer says the possible inter county transfer of water becomes even more important when you consider drilling activities already in progress in Richwood, and a distinct possibility in nearby Randolph County. Not to mention the quality of the water that flows downstream from Pocahontas. Saffer points out that the purity of the county water has long been a point of pride for county residents. He’s also concerned that current water tests don’t measure the kind of contaminants produced during the drilling process. That lack of information could leave landowners vulnerable in a legal dispute over water quality.

Pocahontas County Sanitarian David Henderson gave some information about water testing from the state Office of Laboratory Science.

“They have what is called an Oil and Gas Pre Drilling Package that they do testing,” he says. “Obviously this has been talked about in other counties. You can see what they test for, you can see the price there; and all those samples do have to be hand delivered to the lab.”

Henderson says 1851 water wells have been drilled in Pocahontas since 1984, the earliest they were required to keep records. Even without counting the wells drilled before 1984, at $223.00 per test, the cost to test 1851 wells would be almost $413,000.00. Additionally, Henderson says the samples have to hand collected and hand delivered to the state lab to protect the chain of custody.

Lynmarie Knight says this is one of the topics the Water Resource Task Force is working on as well.

“One option that we threw around was waiting to see if there were new permits for wells in the county and then going to that area, like a mile radius where permits were issued,” she says. “Part of what the water resource management plan is going to include is a very extensive groundwater hydrology flow study; one that’s more extensive than has been done ever in the past for any county.”

Knight says the hydrology study should be done by 2013. And while he applauds the idea of the hydrology study, Saffer is concerned that it may come too late. Commission President David Fleming offered to draft a letter to the West Virginia Dept of Environmental Protection about this issue. Saffer urged him to invite a representative to come to a Commission meeting. Fleming was also urged to contact the WV Division of Highways about their practice of spraying fracing fluids on winter roads.

In other business, the Commissioners approved going forward with the state purchasing card program, similar to a Visa card. Jack Berry with the state office will work with County Clerk Melissa Bennett on the particulars of using the card. The Commissioners also approved the county financial statement for 2010-2011 and rescheduled the Oct 4th Commission meeting to Oct 3rd because of the special gubernatorial election. Commissioner Jamie Walker agreed to serve on the Pocahontas County Board of Health.

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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