FROSTBURG -- Residents of the Borden area, plagued by contaminated drinking water in nearly half of the homes, may get a public water system as early as spring 1993, an Allegany County public works official said yesterday.
In a meeting at the Frostburg Community Center with more than 50 residents of Borden and surrounding areas, Ronald Snyder of the county Public Works Department said that if no problems arose, residents could have public water flowing into their homes within two years.
After years of being overlooked as other parts of the county received water projects, Borden has become a top public works priority.
"We're very positive about getting a water project for that area," Mr. Snyder said.
County and state officials became interested in Borden's water problems after a May 26 article in The Sunday Sun detailed how some residents were drinking contaminated water and using outhouses, and how waste was flowing down the streets of the impoverished coal-mining community near Frostburg.
One woman, Edna Yutzy, developed salmonella a few years ago from drinking the water from her hand-dug well. The disease destroyed her intestinal system, and she has been bedridden since.
A county Health Department report due out this week is expected to show that nearly half of the water supply is seriously contaminated. Mr. Snyder said that if the water project is to be done, residents must bear some of the costs. "There is no way we will be able to cover it all with grant money," he said.
Officials hope to fund the $1.5 million water project through grants from the state Department of the Environment and loans from the federal Farmers Home Administration, which makes loans for public works projects based on the income of the users.
"There is no way to get out of the burden of paying for the system," he said. "We can hope to minimize it, though."
Claude Sutton, a Borden resident, wondered why the county could not come up with the money for the entire water system when it was considering spending at least $2 million on the proposed $48 million Rocky Gap Golf Course and Conference Center. "They have all kinds of money for the golf course," he said.
Other residents were skeptical, saying they had been promised too many other times that something would be done to improve their substandard living conditions. "The county took a survey four years ago and nothing was done," Shirley Atkinson said. "How long will it take this time?"
Debbie Yutzy, Edna Yutzy's daughter, also criticized the county for failing to respond sooner. "How many more people will have BTC to get sick before we get water in that area?" she asked.
Residents also complained that other areas of the county, like Mexico Farms and Vale Summit, were getting water or sewer systems ahead of Borden because of politics. Vale Summit homes near the planned Chambers Development Corp. landfill are slated for hookup to Frostburg's public water system, while Mexico Farms residents are getting a water and sewer system because of a new federal prison to be built there.
"I won't kid you that politics hasn't played a part in all this," Mr. Snyder said, but he urged residents not to "rehash old wounds." He said residents needed to start fresh and make sure the project gets done.
"These are not old wounds," said Hazel Eagen, whose mother lives in Borden. "These people are still suffering."
Residents agreed to form a civic association to pressure county and state officials to make sure the water project is completed.
The county is not considering a sewer system at this time, Mr. Snyder said, because water and sewer projects are rarely constructed at the same time.