homepage logo

What’s in the water?

By Staff | Mar 23, 2012

Photo by Toni Milbourne What will flow in Town Run are surfacing in light of a proposed development project. The Run is shown from the boundary between the Heyser and Kelsh properties near the Shepherd Grist Mill.

A proposed conditional use permit for a plot of land near Morgan’s Grove Park has become a hot topic among town residents as focus has turned to water quality in Shepherdstown.

The CUP, being sought by property owner Peter Corum, would allow for the construction of an agricultural campus and a mind body hollistic center on the Twin Oaks property near Morgan’s Grove Park, according to Corum who stated that the facilities would focus on environmental and economic sustainability.

“[We’re] going to localize food production by aggregating it and providing efficient distribution,” Corum said of his project.

Not everyone is in favor of Corum’s project and the CUP application. Several citizens of Shepherdstown, most notably the Shepherdstown Community Club have come out opposed to the CUP, citing concerns over the effect it may have on water quality in Town Run.

“We are not convinced that Mr. Corum’s present development scheme is realistic, nor that it will gain the full support of the surrounding Shepherdstown community,” said Mike Austin of the SCC.

Corum claimed that he has taken ample measures to assure that water quality in Town Run would not be affected. This includes a 150 foot riparian buffer, which is a strip of vegetation designed to act as a natural filtration system to protect from run off. Corum claims that the buffer was made after he consulted with Joe Hankins of the Fresh Water Institute about preventative measures to protect Town Run.

“Their issue is that they are looking to stop progress,” Corum said about those opposed to his project. Corum went on to say that he felt it was a case of people in glass houses claiming the Community Club’s parking lot discharges into the creek and that no one else has made a buffer the size of his. Austin rebutted this claim, though, stating that the Community Club maintains a 30 foot buffer on both sides of Morgan’s Grove Park.

Austin went on to say that while the Shepherdstown Community Club respects the rights of Corum to develop on the Twin Oaks property, they also believe that any development should be reasonably compatible with surrounding land areas.

“Nearby land owners raised a number of concerns about adverse impact on their existing wells and the collateral damage from blasting or other methods used in site preparations.” Austin said.

One such land owner is Patrinka Kelsh, who owns the historical Thomas Shepherd Grist Mill who says she has concerns with how the proposed development would affect Town Run, which she uses to turn the water wheel on the mill from April to October.

“We have to remember that little kids play in the water during the summer looking for tadpoles and minnows, and dogs drink from it and I believe the town pulls drinking water from it,” Kelsh said.

Kelsh went on to express concerns with a prefabricated sewer plant which is part of the CUP, stating that she has concerns on how proactively such plants are monitored. She was primarily worried that there could be solids from runoff coming down Town Run.

The application comes amidst a generally increasing awareness of the issue of water quality in Shepherdstown and Jefferson County as a whole. On Wednesday, Mar. 14, local experts and various local government structures hosted a forum on the topic of water quality. According to Peter Bradford, of the Jefferson County League of Women’s Voters, the forum focused on Jefferson County’s strengths and challenges in that area and laid out possible future initiatives.

At the end of last year, Shepherdstown Water distributed a warning to residents that the level of trihalomethanes (TTHM) in the water was at 89 micrograms per liter (Ug/L) where the acceptable range is 80Ug/l. While Shepherdstown Water said it was not an immediate risk, extended periods of drinking water with TTHM above the maximum contaminant level could cause liver and kidney problems, or even cancer in some.

The Water and Sewer Board will meet on March 29, and the CUP is on the agenda. Austin said he was unconvinced that all of the concerns raised about the proposition could be answered in one meeting and he encouraged citizens to come to the meeting to express concerns. Corum stated that anyone with concerns about his project should contact him directly as he would be happy to answer questions and concerns form residents.