Report Muddy Water Leaving Construction Sites

County Information (map/aerial photo)
Berkeley WV (Martinsburg, Inwood, Rockymarsh, North Mtn)
Jefferson WV (Charles Town, Shepherdstown, Harpers Ferry) email updates
Loudoun VA (Leesburg) email updates   Fairfax VA
Allegany MD (Cumberland)
Updated 31 March, 2011
visits since 3/19/01

We help protect scenic, rural, historic & cultural resources.  We try to listen to each other.

Any beautiful field you see may soon be covered with buildings, with no schools for the children, no roads for commuters, falling services, and rising taxes. 

Jefferson County allows high density, up to 21 apartments per acre, or 4 single family houses per acre, in undeveloped land outside towns.

Berkeley and Morgan counties have no zoning limits at all. Loudoun frequently re-zones land to allow more development when requested by the landowers.

There are no zoning restrictions on animal feedlots, manure spreading, or quarries.

People are less and less able to see the stars, because of unregulated lighting. Cities grow rapidly without regard to lack of roads, schools, and emergency services. Construction of houses and roads harms the environment in many ways.


Roads are bumper to bumper in rush hour. Commuting times, already long, grow 5 minutes each year. Main commuter routes from WV cannot be expanded, because Virginia won't expand the 2-lane road through historic Hillsboro, and neither Harpers Ferry National Park nor Maryland will let the 2-lane road and bridges through historic Harpers Ferry Gap be expanded.

Expanding roads is very expensive anyway. "The price to pave a lane mile of road in Loudoun ranges broadly, depending on specifications. For instance, paving a lane mile of Mount Gilead Road to a standard of 500 vehicle trips per day costs $123,750, according to county staff. Paving a mile of Sycolin Road to allow 10,000 trips a day costs $1.8 million." Michael Laris, "Visions of the County's Future,"
Washington Post 5/22/05 page LZ01


Most of the county is on limestone where hidden cavities exist, and the ground can suddenly collapse  (picture). Most homeowners' insurance excludes damage from such "sinkholes."

Fire companies' response times to fires are much slower in Jefferson County than in surrounding areas.  The first column below shows how often local fire companies reached the fire in 6 minutes. The 2nd column shows how many fires were in the database from 1986-2002. (Articles: National  Local)

%6-minute response
28% 105 Friendship (Harpers Ferry)
27% 262 Independent (Ranson)
25% 270 Citizens (Charles Town)
17% 192 Blue Ridge
12% 221 Shepherdstown

97% 555 Martinsburg
46% 59 Sharpsburg
44% 66 Purcellville
43% 113 Brunswick
41% 230 Baker Heights
40% 438 South Berkeley

Law enforcement is by the elected Sheriff, with no one on duty many nights. Firefighting and ambulances are provided by volunteers, with slow response in daytime, when they're at their paid jobs.

Be aware & watchful for threats to  sites near here; many of your neighbors work at them (Camp David, Fort Detrick, Mt. Weather, IRS processing, Coast Guard, etc.). If you do have reasonable suspicions, call 911. Also support & thank local fire / ambulance companies & police forces


Few students take Advanced Placement or Vocational courses (many of which are offered 20 miles away in Berkeley County). Less than half the students go to college.

Teachers are paid thousands of dollars less in WV than in neighboring Maryland and Virginia, so it's hard to attract any teachers, and they have high turnover. 53% of high school teachers think the county administration does not recognize good work.

Schools are overcrowded and lack money to keep up, let alone expand (projections).

Each new home increases annual school operating costs by $498 per year more than that home pays in state and local taxes for schools. This cost on other taxpayers continues every year for the life of the home.

Well Water

There are unhealthy levels of bacteria and nitrates in much of the county's groundwater. Nitrates interfere with hemoglobin and can cause babies to die from lack of oxygen (blue baby syndrome).

Many subdivisions are built on old apple orchards, where lead, arsenic, DDT and other pesticides were widely used and persist in the soil. Neither the Health Department nor the Planning and Zoning Commission tests any proposed subdivisions for nitrates or other chemicals.

All the county is a radon hot spot.

Pollution, Sewers, and Rivers

If a sewer pipe is eventually built "near" your land, downhill from your house, you must connect and close your septic system. You will pay several thousand dollars in one-time costs, plus $600 per year for sewer bills. The government has no definition of "near." They can connect you arbitrarily.

Sewer pipes leak raw sewage underground wherever they run, with little or no maintenance and no systematic inspections. The biggest sewer treatment plant in the county, serving Charles Town and the center of the county, has repeatedly exceeded the pollution allowed by its permit.

Charles Town's treated sewer effluent goes down Evitts Run and enters the Shenandoah River upstream of Harpers Ferry. Sewage effluent from cities and industries in Virginia, farther upstream, also goes into the Shenandoah. Yet the Shenandoah above Harpers Ferry is one of the busiest swimming areas in the state. Charles Town has recently expanded to put even more sewage into Evitts Run.

The Shenandoah River is also polluted by PCBs, and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends not eating fish from the Shenandoah, because of PCBs. The DEP plans to expand testing for other contaminants, but is short of staff. Riverbank erosion is also a constant problem.

Sign up to hear about new pollution permits when they are open for public comment.


Property tax rates have been limited in West Virginia since the 1930s, except for debt service. The current low level of public services is the result of this tax limit. Taxes are increased primarily by increasing assessments, and by issuing bonds.

The following shows initial capital costs to match existing public investment per house, and fees paid. It would cost more to raise levels of service.

Cost    Fee paid
$15,000    $      0   Expand roads and bridges
$10,500    $8,562   School construction
$  3,000    $   662   Park expansion
$  1,000    $   656   Emergency services expansion
$     100    $      0    Libraries expansion

What Can You Do?

Write a letter to Jefferson County newspapers

Talk to your friends.

Subscribe to free "listener" email list for information about Jefferson County issues.

Pick one meeting per month (click for times & places of Public Meetings). Attend, comment, write a short summary for other citizens. If the board listens, thank them. If they ignore you, go to the next step:

Call or email County Commissioners:
Jefferson: Dale Manuel, Patsy Noland,  Frances Morgan, Jim Surkamp, Lyn Widmyer
Berkeley: Ron Collins, Tony Petrucci, Bill Stubblefield

Report pollution.

Buy from local farmers

Talk to your friends again.

Figure out something else.

"Work now for the rules you want in 5 years & for the future you want in 25 years."  - Anonymous

The following English & Irish quotes disagree: Keynes counts on ideas to win; Burke counts on groups (political parties in his case). What do you believe will work?

"... in the field of economic and political philosophy there are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest. But, soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil." John Maynard Keynes, last lines of General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

"No man, who is not inflamed by vain-glory into enthusiasm, can flatter himself that his single, unsupported, desultory, unsystematic endeavours, are of power to defeat the subtle designs and united cabals of ambitious citizens. When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." Edmund Burke, Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (This seems to be the original source of the pseudo-quote about evil triumphing if we do nothing)

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General Problems in West Virgnia

West Virginia is poorer than other states and, compared to all 50 states, has the...

worst rate of new cancer cases
lowest rate of health spending
2nd worst rate of adult obesity
7th worst age-adjusted death rate
2nd highest level of infant mortality

More Health
2nd worst proportion of smokers
2nd worst rate of preventable hospitalizations
2nd worst rate of cancer deaths
2nd worst rate of poor physical health days

County Health

Mental Health
2nd worst rate of depression

worst environmental pollution

lowest household incomes
highest use of food stamps
lowest rate of high school graduates
2nd lowest rate of college graduates
worst unemploymet rate
2nd lowest rate of job growth
5th worst rate of deficient bridges
7th lowest rate of sunny days
2nd lowest voter turnout

Legal Ranking by US Chamber of Commerce
worst judges' competence
2nd worst judges' impartiality
3rd worst juries' fairness
worst on scientific & technical evidence
worst on discovery
worst on quick summary judgment or dismissal
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