Workers have begun to lay a permanent pipeline to keep water flowing to the tiny, parched towns of Lonaconing, Midland and Barton in drought-stricken Allegany County.
With freezing temperatures threatening the towns' temporary network of plastic pipes, the state agreed this week to provide emergency funds to get the project under way.
The state Board of Public Works approved a $500,000 grant Wednesday, and Allegany County is contributing $71,450 to build the 1 1/2 -mile pipeline that will hook up to an existing network to tap into Frostburg's ample water supply.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening has declared a state of emergency in the county because of the severe drought conditions. The water shortage is especially acute in the Georges Creek Valley, where reservoirs are depleted to the point that some are empty.
No relief is in sight. Only the lightest of drizzles fell in Allegany County yesterday, and hardly any rain has fallen west of Cumberland since November.
"Our biggest concern is fire," said Jean Smith, Allegany's emergency management director. "That would deplete what water supply there is very rapidly."
Lonaconing and the surrounding towns, which rely on springs and wells, had to resort to a makeshift network of above-ground fire hoses and plastic pipes to pump water from Frostburg.
The lines began to freeze in the past few weeks as the weather turned colder. Utility workers and juvenile offenders from the Greenridge Youth Center have just finished replacing the fire hoses with another temporary solution -- 2-inch pipes buried along the roadsides.
Now, the county is working furiously to build the permanent, 8-inch pipeline that will provide a backup water supply from Frostburg for about 5,000 people in the Georges Creek Valley. The project had been planned for next year, but was pushed up because of the drought.
By week's end, workers will have installed up to a third of the pipeline, said Stephen Young, the county's public works director. The county hopes to complete the project by the first or second week of January, he said.
Pub Date: 12/18/98