Water reserve tanks used to supply Freedom District Reservoir overflow was too much for filter

June 25, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The county used reserve tanks to supply water to Freedom District residents over the weekend because the flow from Liberty reservoir was too much for the county's 2.1 million-gallon-a-day filtering system to handle.

Torrential rains that swamped roads and flooded many areas in the western part of the county last week "created a lot of disturbance in Liberty Lake," said county utilities chief Wayne Lewns.

The 17-acre, 90-foot-deep lake is a reservoir for Baltimore, Carroll and Howard counties and Baltimore City.

"The second 100-year-storm in the past six months churned up sediment on the bottom," Lewns said, causing the turbidity level -- the amount of cloudiness in treated water -- to rise two and three times above acceptable levels.

As a result, the county opened the spigot on its reserve tanks.

But late Friday, the water level in the reserve tanks fell 16 feet and the county sent an advisory to Baltimore television stations asking residents to conserve water by not washing cars or watering lawns.

"We wanted to get the word out to people to conserve as much as possible," Lewns said.

Residents did, and the water supply has returned to normal, Lewns said.

Meanwhile, county workers brought the filtration problem under control over the weekend. The turbidity is now less than half the maximum allowed, he said.

Lewns does not expect the problem to return. By this time next year, the county will have new and improved filtering equipment that will allow the county to filter 3 million gallons-a-day, he said.

The current system can handle the pounding the lake takes from summer thunderstorms -- even ferocious ones that last up to 40 minutes, Lewns said.

The rains that cause the problem are those that drop "six or seven inches in a short period of time," he said.

The county and the city of Sykesville supply treated water to about 6,000 residents and approximately 200 businesses in South Carroll.

Most residents seemed unaware the county was having a problem with its filtering system.

The response of Eldersburg resident Sarah Bowie was typical.

"I didn't know about that," she said. "I heard something on the news about not washing your car or watering your lawn. But I wasn't planning to do either of those anyway."

Last December, about 100 south Carroll residents using county water complained that their tap water had turned yellow.

A harmless chemical called manganese was rising to the surface and causing the problem, residents were told.

Officials said the discoloration was not a health problem but the natural consequence of a twice-yearly process called "turning" in which the water on the bottom of the lake rises to the surface. The discoloration disappeared after a few days.

The problem affecting the filtration system over the weekend was similar in that sediment from bottom of the lake was stirred up and rising to the top.

Pub Date: 6/25/96

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