West Virginia

Must Be Something In The Water

The Choose Clean Water Steering Committee meets with members of Warm Springs Watershed Association in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

The Choose Clean Water Steering Committee meets with members of Warm Springs Watershed Association in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia.

“Without the water, there would be no town.” - Jeanne Mozier, Berkeley Springs resident and historian

While it may seem like we are constantly out of the office, the reality is our Coalition staff are usually stuck behind our desks during the year. Part of my job is to share the great work of our members, but rarely do I get to experience it first hand, which is why I was thrilled to be travelling to meet with some of our members in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia last week. While I knew we were going to be visiting the town and seeing member projects, I had no idea how much I would learn about not only our members but the power of water.

The History

The founding of Berkeley Springs can be traced back to the 1740s, when George Washington was sent to survey the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia for Lord Fairfax. After their discovery, the warm springs were said to have medicinal benefits, and as early as the 1750s large bath houses and hotels began to pop up around the springs. The water became a destination for those seeking treatment for everything from anxiety to diabetes, and was even frequented by Washington himself! To this day, people have come to depend on the springs for not only treating their ailments, but also for their drinking water. As we stood learning about the springs, a line of people began to form to fill their empty gallon jugs at the spring’s spigot. As I stopped to take a photo, the woman in line turned to me and said, “it is the best water in the world.”

Pushing Up Daises

This rain garden is located at the bottom of Greenway Cemetery in Berkeley Springs. The project was made possible by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

This rain garden is located at the bottom of Greenway Cemetery in Berkeley Springs. The project was made possible by funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

All of this said, it probably comes as no surprise that the people who live in Berkeley Springs really value keeping their water clean, which could be why there has been such a push for more green infrastructure in the town. The first such project we toured was installed at Greenway Cemetery. Located just across the street from Warm Springs Run, it is a huge plot with a very steep slope. Certain paths and roads through the cemetery would frequently flood and caused cars to become stuck throughout the property. In 2016, Warm Springs Watershed Association worked with a variety of partners to install a rain garden at the bottom of the hill that collects an estimated 100,000 gallons of stormwater runoff during an average rainfall. Funding for the project was provided by a $50,000 Small Watershed Grant administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (You know, funding that comes from the $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program?), with additional financial support from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the West Virginia Division of Forestry and Region Nine. Over the past five years, more than 100 additional trees have been planted in the cemetery and they recently installed an innovative hügelkultur-inspired project, which may sound like a delicious German pastry, but is actually a project that will help to reduce flooding downstream.

Greening Main Street

This innovative project helped reduce flooding on one of the main streets in Berkeley Springs.

This innovative project helped reduce flooding on one of the main streets in Berkeley Springs.

The next project we visited was a series of bioretention cells located along the historic main street of town. Recognizing that it would be almost impossible to create bump outs along the road, which is also a federal highway, the city decided to dig down. They installed permeable pavers that collect water underground for the plants in the bioretention cells to soak up, reducing the amount of water that goes directly into stormdrains. Residents in the town have noticed that when it rains, the ends of the road still flood, while this section of the road with the projects stays dry and allows businesses to stay open. The hope is to eventually install more of these projects along the roadway to help keep even more water from flooding the area and flowing directly into the local stream.

They say the springs are restorative, and although I didn’t have the opportunity to jump in, I did leave Berkeley Springs feeling rejuvenated. Being surrounded by our members who care so deeply about these issues helped to remind me why we all do what we do, why we show up, and why we will continue to show up, each and every day for clean water. Must be something in the water.

Kristin Reilly is the senior communications manager for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

No Potomac Pipeline Campaign

Disclaimer: The information below does not reflect a formal position of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, but the position of some of its members.

A natural gas pipeline is proposed to flow under the Potomac River. Read this blog to learn more about the potential negative impacts of this pipeline and how our members are working together to stop it through the No Potomac Pipeline Campaign.  

Proposed Pipeline Could Effect Clean Drinking Water For Millions

The Potomac River is a source of water for six million people. TransCanada spilled nearly 17,000 gallons of oil onto rural land last year, and had two other leaking incidents in 2011. Many of our members believe that placing trust in TransCanada to safely build and maintain an oil pipeline under the Potomac would be putting clean drinking water for millions at risk.

via Skytruth.org

via Skytruth.org

Pipeline Would Run Through Karst Geology

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

via Wisconsin Geological & Natural History Survey

Karst topography is a sensitive geology characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves. Easily susceptible to the transmission of pollutants through connected underground aquifers, Karst allows for the easy migration of pollutants into aquifers that run into the Potomac River. Hydraulic directional drilling under streams in this geology may create pathways for water to drain down and dissolve the limestone around the pining. This drilling may create sinkholes that would put the pipeline at risk, and can cause subterranean ruptures and even explosions. 

Campaign Says NO to the Potomac Pipeline

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

via No Potomac Pipeline Facebook

The #NoPotomacPipeline campaign, initiated by the Potomac Riverkeeper Network, is in full swing with the support of a few other organizations. Many of the same members of the "Don't Frack In Maryland" campaign — who saw victory in their efforts to ban fracking in Maryland though legislation and garnering support from Gov. Larry Hogan — are fighting to stop the construction of this pipeline.

Once again, Gov. Hogan holds great power in this situation, as he has the authority to approve or reject the Section 401 Water Quality Certification for this project under the Clean Water Act. A few weeks ago, hundreds of Marylanders and West Virginians united to demonstrate their resistance to the pipeline. Standing hand in hand on the James Rumsey Bridge, the "Hands Across the Potomac" demonstration was a reassuring display of unity against faceless corporations. We hope Hogan saw this demonstration and heard the voices of those who will be directly affected.

If you want to join the #NoPotomacPipeline movement, sign up for our partners' action alerts. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network and Waterkeepers Chesapeake are two organizations that are providing great resources to get dissenters of the pipeline involved.

On Monday, November 8th, those organizations will be hosting a meeting at the Washington County Free Library to discuss the pipeline and volunteering opportunities. Those who are interested can RSVP to the free event, which will take place from 6:30pm-8pm. 

Joe DeWitt is a communications intern with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

This blog was updated on May 9, 2018 by Chanté Coleman , director, Choose Clean Water Coalition. 

West Virginia Rivers Coalition Launches Youth Engagement Project

Environmental stewardship youth engagement programs aren’t what they used to be. A generation ago, most kids grew up spending lots of free time outdoors—those connections to nature are how many people first learn environmental ethics. And back then, there weren’t so many exciting activities competing for teens’ attention. Environmental educators and mentors have had to change their approaches.

So when West Virginia Rivers Coalition planned a pilot youth engagement program focusing on two Chesapeake Bay tributaries, we did three things before we put pen to paper. First, because our goal was to use youth engagement to help build watershed groups' capacity, we surveyed our Choose Clean Water Coalition watershed partners in the Eastern Panhandle. They said they needed help reaching out to young people and their parents. They hoped teens would be ambassadors to other teens and parents.

Then we queried young adult leaders of youth programs to get their advice. The takeaways there: Empower teens to be self-directed, and incorporate technology.

Finally, we teamed up with two amazing West Virginia Choose Clean Water Coalition partners, Warm Springs Watershed Association (WSWA) and Friends of the Cacapon River (FCR). Together, we set about trying to create a program that could be replicated across the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The resulting program is OneWatershed, a scheme to empower youth as ambassadors and leaders that we marketed as a film school. Our recruitment invitation says it all: “Are you an aspiring storyteller or filmmaker? Want to learn to make films and produce news by telling the stories of Warm Springs Run and the Cacapon?

Our planning team identified a terrific retired television producer, Jack Kelly. Jack’s first idea was to dump any notion of using conventional cameras. “If we want kids to make films on their own, and upload those films the web,” he said, “we’ve got to train them how to use those things in their pockets or backpack.”

Those “things,” of course, are phones and tablets.

And so Jack, WSWA’s Kate Lehman and the FCR’s Rachel D’Agostino planned out a weeklong film camp. In addition to the technical elements of filmmaking and editing, the workshop hosted people with stories to tell: a sportsman whose life has been enriched by the Cacapon, a retired sewage treatment plan operator, a local fifth generation business owner, and more.

WSWA and FCR took on the task of helping to identify these interview subjects. They also recruited watershed experts from agencies and nonprofits to present on watershed topics for a short time each morning—sessions which sparked curiosity in our filmmakers.

Each group also planned events that could be filmed for stories. For example, WSWA conducted a stream monitoring program that was filmed by students.

On the first day of camp, when it was time to set up the iPads, I asked if any of the kids has an Apple ID. “Duh. . .” Of course they did. Did we give them instructions on setting up their new “cameras”? No, of course we didn’t. Did they take to creating stories about streams and the connections between people and water? Indeed, like fish in water, they needed no help learning to swim.

Seven teens attended the pilot program. They all say they learned way more than they thought they would. But it’s safe to say we adults learned so much more from our teen filmmakers: about how kids naturally know how to collaborate with people different from them; about how they are capable of using technology to explore being human—not detract from it; and how their approaches to environmental stewardship are going to different than their parents’, and that’s okay.

We’re sorting through the practical lessons of the pilot, especially how the model can be both effective and replicated watershed to watershed. We look forward to sharing those ideas with the Choose Clean Water Coalition community.

In the meantime, have a look at some of our short videos at www.wvrivers.org/news/onewatershed.