Bouncing back from drought, Grantsville is sapped by leaky water system

November 17, 1991|By Thom Loverro | Thom Loverro,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

GRANTSVILLE ( — GRANTSVILLE -- Many thousands of gallons are being lost daily through leaks in this drought-stricken community's water sysstem, and a team of experts disbanded by the state because of budget cuts has been reassembled to help find the leaks.

The leaks forced the town of about 500 residents to close Grantsville Elementary School and a local laundromat for one day last week, said Mayor Fred Holliday.

Like the water supplies in numerous other communities in Garrett County, Grantsville's dried up this fall as a result of the worst drought in recent memory.

Although more than 700,000 gallons had been hauled to Grantsville's reservoir from a nearby lake by firetrucks during the last two months, Mayor Holliday was able to stop the emergency hauling two weeks ago after newly drilled wells produced water.

But last week, several leaks in the town's system were found to be losing water at the rate of more than 70,000 gallons daily, and the hauling began again.

"It was very frustrating to have this come up after we just stopped hauling water," Mr. Holliday said. Using trucks from the town's fire company and surrounding volunteer fire companies, the water hauling was resumed Tuesday and continued into Friday night.

After two days of unsuccessful searches for the leaks, Mr. Holliday said Gov. William Donald Schaefer's office was called for help. A state emergency management team of experts that had been disbanded because of the state's budget problems was reassembled to help Grantsville locate the leaks.

"We had a leak detection unit in the Department of Natural Resources that was cut out of the budget," said David McMillion, Maryland's director of emergency management. "We still had the people, who were transferred to other duties, and we still had the equipment, so we reconstituted the team and sent it out to Grantsville Thursday."

Workers found one 30 gallon-per-minute leak Thursday night but by Friday had still not been able to find another leak known to be losing 20 gallons of water a minute. "We have it narrowed down to a three-block stretch, but we can't seem to pinpoint it," Mr. Holliday said.

Businesses and residents of the town have been taking emergency conservation measures, Mr. Holliday said.

"Restaurants have been using paper plates and cups," he said, and one local factory has been hauling its own water rather than use the town's system during the emergency.

"People have been really cooperating," the mayor said.

Jeff Gilbert, an engineer with the Garrett County Sanitary District, said other towns that suffered water problems recently, such as Crellin and Mountain Lake Park, were doing better now, thanks to new wells and system improvements.

"But I'm looking forward to a long, wet winter," he said. "That is what we really need."

In neighboring Allegany County, some communities with water shortages in the Georges Creek area were either stabilized or improving last week. Lonaconing's water supplies continued to improve, and the Klondike area seemed to be "holding its own," said Steve Young, county engineer.

In the Carlo-Shaft area, officials were counting on a new well being drilled. As of Friday, the drilling had gone down about 550 feet with no water strike, Mr. Young said. Drilling would continue to 600 feet before officials would start on a new well site, he said.

Residents living in the Hoffman area are using water tanks to bring in temporary supplies, "and that will have to continue until their supply builds back up," Mr. Young said.

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