Woodstock looking to implement water protection plan

The town of Woodstock has actively been taking measures to protect its water supply over the past year.

On top of efforts to upgrade its water treatment plant, the town is now working toward implementing a source water protection plan.

Unlike a treatment plant, the purpose of a source water protection plan is to “develop strategies to prevent contamination,” said Mindy Ramsey, environmental scientist at Tetra Tech in Charleston, West Virginia.

“Source protection is generally seen as your first barrier in a multiple-barrier approach,” Ramsey said.

Tetra Tech is a consulting firm for companies and towns in the areas of environment and energy as well as a contractor for the Virginia Department of Health Office of Drinking Water.

Tetra Tech is one of three contractors, alongside CHA Companies and Golder Associates Inc., working with the department to encourage these plans.

Tetra Tech serves the northern region of the state, including counties such as Shenandoah, Warren and Frederick.

For its voluntary Source Water Protection Program, the state  provides funds to contractors like Tetra Tech to help small towns with population sizes under 10,000 develop protection plans.

Ramsey estimated the cost to be somewhere between $10,000 and $12,000. Essentially, the planning process will cost the town of Woodstock nothing.

A source water protection plan would, in part, be used to identify potential contaminants for the town’s drinking water, said Reid Wodicka, Woodstock’s town manager.

Wodicka said that because the town uses the North Fork of Shenandoah, there are “a lot of sources of contamination.”

Ramsey also noted that part of Tetra Tech’s role is looking to identify any type of threats in what is known as the source water protection area.

For Woodstock, Ramsey said, that protection area is “anywhere within five miles upstream of their intake.”

John Eckman, executive director for Friends of the North Fork and a committee member, said the most pressing thing it does is to help them “be ready in case of a catastrophic emergency situation where the water supply is, in some way, compromised.”

Eckman is a member of a local advisory committee that, along with Wodicka and James Didawick, Woodstock superintendent of public works and county emergency services, is looking to figure out what concerns the town has and developing the plan.

Eckman noted that this plan would be a contingency in case of an oil spill or catastrophe – much like the chemical spill that left Charleston, West Virginia, residents without water for a week last January.

“These are very low probability problems, but they can be potentially high impact,” Eckman said.

In case of an emergency, Wodicka said that the plan would include information regarding “who to call and what to do.”

Wodicka added that, if certain contaminants were to enter the town’s drinking water supply in the Shenandoah River, the town would shut down operations and go to their reserve water supply.

That supply, according to Wodicka, contains 2.7 million gallons water – or enough to supply the town for potentially four or five days.

“That would be sucking everything dry and if we were to use that up, we would be in real trouble,” Wodicka explained.

Wodicka echoed the idea that the plan would be designed to prevent the worst-case scenarios from occurring.

“There are certain types of contaminants that a treatment plan would not be able to remove or would cause serious problems to our plant,” Wodicka said.

Eckman said, “I think [this plan] is a very proactive and sensible thing to do … I hope it is one that other communities pick up on.”

At the moment, the town has completed a preliminary draft of the plan that it will, in conjunction with Tetra Tech, work to finalize of the next several months.

Wodicka stated that the goal is to have a final version of the plan completed and implemented “around the beginning of the next fiscal year.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com