Fish or Cut Bait at Piney Run Lake

June 21, 1995

Since Piney Run Lake was built two decades ago, it has provided abundant recreation opportunities for South Carroll: boating and fishing and even ice skating in winter. Piney Run Park, which surrounds the 300-acre lake, is a pleasing, placid setting for picnics and nature study.

What the lake has not provided is drinking water, the purpose for which it was constructed in 1975. Not one drop for a growing area that needs expanded supplies.

The Carroll County Commissioners planned to begin building a 3.5-million gallons-per-day water treatment plant at the lake this year, for use in 1997. The system would eventually serve some 7,000 homes in the region, supplementing the Freedom District Water Plant that now provides public water service in South Carroll.

But just as Carroll County was preparing to put out bids on the $16 million project this summer, the new commissioners pulled back on the decision. They want to explore the possibility of buying treated water from Baltimore City. That would save up-front dollars on building the plant in Carroll. But the county would still be responsible for building a pumping station and laying pipes to consumers, no small cost itself.

It's an engineering decision that could have been made some time ago -- and the county's future needs projected. Instead, the long-intended capital project is put into uncertainty by today's political concerns over spending money. (The resignation of the county's public works director this month may further delay the new cost analysis.)

Baltimore reservoirs already supply untreated water to the Freedom District, which treats and distributes it in Carroll. The city is willing to sell treated water to Carroll. Only the price is to be determined.

It now appears that the cost of buying water from Baltimore (and building the distribution system) would be greater than for Carroll to build a plant at Piney Run Lake. That's the opinion of George G. Balog, the Baltimore public works chief.

Detailed analysis of these two options should be completed as soon as possible, and a decision should be made by the commissioners. The question is not just one of dollars, but of control of the water supply. Further delay is unacceptable. Water supplies for South Carroll should be decided now before it becomes an emergency.

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