Water Workers' Initiative Praised

October 01, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Utilities officials call it a triumph of man over machine.

As temperatures soared and rain took a vacation, summer water use broke allrecords. But, unlike past years, no restrictions were placed on county residents' water use.

Demand in earlier drought years has exceeded the pumping capacityat the county's 21 automated treatment plants, prompting moratoriumsand restrictions, a county Department of Utilities spokeswoman said.

This summer, water operations workers took matters into their ownhands, said Sarah Shanefelter, assistant to Utilities director Tom Neel. Switching off the automated controls, they monitored machinery pumping nearly 38 million gallons of water per day in July.

The automated pumps have a rated capacity of only 35 million gallons per day.

Forty-seven water division employees baby-sat the pumps around the clock through the drought months of May, June and July, Shanefelter said. Working in shifts, they held overtime costs to $5,000, she said.

"That was a real show of technical expertise and a real show of commitment to the customer," Shanefelter said.

The county has limited water use around the county during past droughts. It imposed mandatory restrictions countywide in 1986 and on the Broadneck community in 1987.

Baltimore, in order to maintain pressure to its fire hydrants, had to restrict water use this year.

"Moratoriums, particularly in the spring, always anger customers who are just putting in new sod, planting, cleaning their cars and playing outdoors," Shanefelter said.

County Executive Robert R. Neall lauded the water division's efforts Sept. 17 in a special ceremony at the Arnold Water Treatment Plant.

"They were not only able to keep up with demand, they were able to do it without any restrictions," said Neall spokeswoman Louise Hayman.

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