For the first time in about a quarter century, Hillsboro residents don’t have to boil their water before drinking it.
Town leaders Tuesday morning dedicated the town’s new Belle and John Ware Stonehedge Well—which puts out 25 gallons of water each minute and is located on the property owned by the late former councilwoman Belle Ware and her husband. To officially dedicate the well, Mayor Roger Vance struck the well with a stick as Western Loudoun Community Church Pastor Ray Cowell read a passage from the Book of Exodus, in which God tells Moses to “strike the rock, and the water will flow from it for the people to drink.”
Water Commissioner Claudia Forbes also announced to the dozen or so residents in attendance at the ceremony that the Virginia Department of Health had lifted the town’s more than 25-year-old boil water notice.
The ceremony marked nearly the end of a more than year-long $3.2 million water project that saw the Shirley Contracting Co. modernize the town’s water system and increase the town’s water output by 15 gallons per minute—up to 34 gallons each minute from 19 gallons. Shirley also installed a 20,000-gallon water storage tank to replace a 4,500-gallon tank.
Vice Mayor Amy Marasco said the updated water system won’t just provide water for the 32 customers who are hooked up and the others who are now able to connect, but also for the tens of thousands of people who pass through and visit the town annually.
Marasco and Vance also thanked leaders from the state Health Department, Loudoun Water and the county government. Marasco said the Health Department “has been with us as our partner, appreciative and supportive.” She noted that an entire filing cabinet in the department’s office is dedicated to 25 years of paperwork from Hillsboro.
Vance thanked the work of former Blue Ridge District Supervisor Jim Burton for initiating a water study in the town years ago, and also thanked former County Chairman Scott York, current County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge).
“A lot of elected officials were instrumental in getting us to this point,” Vance said.
He also said Belle Ware was a “driving force” behind the town’s years-long drive to modernize its water system.
“She was an inspiration to us all,” he said.
The town’s water project has been in the works for decades, but didn’t really get underway at any capacity until 2005, when the state Virginia Department of Health informed town leaders they needed to upgrade the water system to adhere to modern federal regulations. That happened around the same time the spring atop Short Hill Mountain began to falter.
After receiving three state grants to drill two wells that came up dry and one that produced only 10 gallons of water per minute, the town in 2011 hired the Emery and Garrett Groundwater Investigations firm to perform a hydrogeologic study of the entire town, which was paid for with more state grant money. That study identified the new Stonehedge Well as being the best of 13 locations studied.
Town leaders signed the contract with Shirley in May 2019 and resolved to pay for the project with a combination of town money and Virginia Department of Health and Loudoun County grants. Work got underway in July 2019.
The project now pumps raw water from the Stonehedge Well about 1,250 feet up Short Hill Mountain to the town’s water treatment plant, then back down the hill to connect with a new water main underneath Rt. 9, which Archer Western Corp. crews have been working to install for the past few months as part of the town’s $14.3 million traffic calming and pedestrian safety project. While the well atop Short Hill Mountain is still a part of the new water system, the spring there has been pulled offline—after more than 200 years of service.
The water project generally ran smoothly, aside from a late-March water main break that forced town leaders to request a VDOT closure of Rt. 9 through the town for Shirley crews to make repairs. The highway through town, which Archer crews continue to work on, has been closed since May 4 and will remain closed through Aug. 15.