Repairs planned for water system Boost in pressure and rates in store

April 14, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A four-year county construction program will mean cleaner drinking water and better water pressure for Brooklyn Park residents -- at a price.

The county Department of Public Works announced Friday an $8 million project to repair about 23 miles of water lines owned by Baltimore. The old water system extends along both sides of Ritchie Highway from the city line south to Walton Avenue.

Beginning in the fall, public works crews will drill beneath local streets and clean the clogged, 60-year-old lines, which serve about 3,100 households and businesses in Brooklyn Park.

"This system is not going to get better if nothing is done," said Michael Bonk, deputy director of utility operations in the Department of Public Works. "It will deteriorate, and it will continue to worsen."

The price of improved service for Brooklyn Park residents could be an additional $125 a year on their utility bills.

George M. Albright, manager of the systems evaluation and rehabilitation division, said the first phase of the project, which could take two years, will involve installing fire hydrants at certain intersections and replacing some of the major lines with new pipes.

Mr. Albright said no more than 10,000 feet of main -- ranging from 6 to 12 inches in diameter -- need to be replaced.

The rest of the major pipes will be cleaned and coated with concrete, which will make it difficult for rust and mineral deposits to build up and restrict water flow, he said.

The pipes should last 30 years longer with the lining, he said.

The second phase of the project includes cleaning and replacing the 2-inch-diameter pipes that connect the water mains to the residential feeder system, Mr. Albright said.

Low water pressure in the neighborhood became apparent Oct. 28, 1994, when firefighters battling a house fire in the 100 block of W. Seventh Ave. got little water from a nearby hydrant.

Gaynelle LeMaster, 73, died in the fire, and her family was left homeless.

Each hydrant should supply 1,000 gallons a minute, but tests of 13 area hydrants by the Baltimore Department of Utilities found flow ranging from 93 gallons a minute on Seventh Avenue and Marshall Road to 950 gallons a minute at Southerly Road and Ballman Avenue.

When firefighters encounter a deficient hydrant in the area, they use hydrants on Ritchie Highway, water pressure is greater.

"Our county executive does feel responsible about providing adequate fire protection to Anne Arundel County residents," said Faye Scheibe, customer relations manager in the Public Works Department. "That was the thing that raised concerns."

The county will finance the project by using a portion of residents' quarterly payments, said James M. Hurley, the department's deputy director for finance and administration.

Anne Arundel built the infrastructure for the water system in 1929 and deeded it to Baltimore for maintenance and operation. Brooklyn Park residents have paid water fees to the city since then, but they now will pay them to the county.

The county will phase in increases in water and sewer rates for Brooklyn Park residents to bring them into line with what the rest of the county pays.

In Baltimore, where water fees are subsidized by city taxes, the average quarterly bill is $22.73 for water, $31.66 for sewer service. In Arundel, which has no comparable subsidy, the average is $30.80 for water and $54.82 for sewer service.

Brooklyn Park sewer bills would increase by $11.58 after July 1, to reflect 50 percent of the difference between Baltimore and Anne Arundel County rates, Mr. Hurley said.

After July 1, 1997, water rates would jump $4.04 -- again, 50 percent of the difference -- and sewer rates would increase by $5.79, he said.

After July 1, 1998, residents would pay the full Anne Arundel County rates.

Mr. Hurley acknowledged that some residents might be angered by the increases but noted that Anne Arundel County does not subsidize service.

"The one thing is, it's 100 percent borne by the users," he said. "There are no property taxes associated with it."

The county has scheduled public meetings on the project for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and April 24 at Glen Burnie High School.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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