Long-time member of West Cocalico Water Authority resigns

By on April 3, 2019

In their meeting on March 19, West Cocalico supervisors said goodbye to a long-time member of the West Cocalico Township Water Authority, James Beard, approving Beard’s resignation and appointing his replacement, Scott Allen.

Beard, who is moving out of the area, has an impressive track record in local board service by any standard: he started on the Reinholds Area Authority board in 1967.

Over half a century later, officials are still making the effort to modernize and extend public water and sewer services in these remote areas of Lancaster County.

The Ephrata Review caught up with Beard on March 22 to ask about how things have changed in all of those years.

“One of the things that we didn’t have,” Beard said, “was a central agency, a group to present ourselves as a community.”

In general, he explained, the evolution of public water and sewer services was a direct response to public demand: the people wanted these services.

While many of today’s upgrades are done at the behest of offices like the state Department of Environmental Protection, local municipal water and sewer solved some big problems for residents of the Reinholds area in the 1960s.

Beard told of shallow drainage ditches that filled with sewage after rains, of children playing ball near suspicious puddles, and cesspools that often had no drain fields at all.

“Whatever you had kept floating down,” Beard said.

All of that changed, he said, after locals sat down with an engineering firm and took on the job of advocating for public water and sewer. Beard, who returned to the area after serving in the U.S. military from 1957 to 1959, mostly in Germany, was part of the effort.

A local named Harry Gring, he said, became a state legislator and helped to promote the idea in the assembly.
Water was the first priority.

“We didn’t have a common water supply,” Beard said. “You’re solving a part of the equation by getting a regulated water supply.”
Another big difference between life “mid-century” and today’s highly specialized economy became evident listening to Beard describe doing a feasibility study for public water in the area.
“We got $10 from each household to do the feasibility study,” Beard said, of a process that now comes with a price tag in the tens of thousands.

In describing the impetus for getting the public water service done, Beard noted the involvement of local business leaders such as the owner of local Weaver’s stores. The Denver Lion’s Club, he said, also played a significant role. A steering committee was formed from members of the Lion’s Club and the local fire company.

Eventually, around 250 households had signed on for public water, bringing Reinholds and surrounding environs up to date with nearby areas like Denver and Adamstown where public water was already running.

Public sewer, Beard said, came later in the 1980s, although modernization of on-lot systems kept evolving gradually over the years.

Fast-forward to today’s more suburban Cocalico, where Beard says boards are making progress on expanding public water and sewer services in Blainsport and Schoeneck. Beard said there are now over 900 connections to public water locally, and an initial well delivering 75-85 gallons per minute has been supplemented by a new well running 300 gallons per minute.

Though he’ll be living in another part of the county, Beard said he will keep an eye on progress in Cocalico; residents can get more information by attending public meetings to see what’s coming down the pike in and around Reinholds.

Justin Stoltzfus is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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