Area water limits eased

Even-odd addresses to determine days outside use is allowed

June 1 ban cut demand

Officials will continue to monitor water use by business, residents

June 15, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

South Carroll residents whose addresses end in odd numbers will be permitted to water their lawns and wash their cars today for the first time in two weeks.

The county modified its June 1 ban on outside watering yesterday to allow use on alternating days. Even-numbered addresses will be permitted to resume outdoor water use tomorrow and continue on even-numbered days. The restriction will continue indefinitely.

The outdoor water-use ban gave the county time to fill a new $750,000, million-gallon storage tank. The water had to come from the county's daily allotment of 3 million gallons from Liberty Reservoir. Although construction was complete, there had not been enough extra water to fill the tank until late last week.

"Usage has dropped noticeably and consistently since the ban," said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services, in a meeting with county commissioners yesterday. "We have been able to operate the treatment plant at normal, manageable levels due to citizens' response to our requirement for no outside usage. What they did let us get the tank filled and on line."

Usage dropped from a record high of nearly 3.5 million gallons a day on May 31 -- 500,000 above the plant's capacity -- to 2.3 million gallons Sunday. The Freedom water treatment plant supplies more than 6,500 households and businesses in Eldersburg and Sykesville.

"The plant has had a good week now operating at less than maximum capacity," said Horst in recommending that the ban be relaxed.

"We are actually down 1 million gallons from Memorial Day weekend," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "Making the ban odd-even is the fair thing to do."

The county will continue to monitor water use by residents and businesses throughout the summer. Dell said he hopes the alternating schedule will be sufficient.

"I hope there will not be a full ban for the rest of the summer," Dell said.

In 1997, during one of the driest spells in more than 30 years, the alternating-days ban stayed in effect through September.

During the decrease in demand last week, operators gradually filled the new storage tank at Route 32 and Johnsville Road. The county received state approval to open the tank Friday. The water had been treated and tested for potability.

Horst praised residents for a quick response to the water crisis that started May 20.

"We were able to start filling the tank as soon as word got out about the ban," said Horst. "If usage had not gone down, we could not have filled the tank."

The new tank brings county storage capacity to 3.5 million gallons, providing a buffer for fire emergencies and similar sudden increases in usage, said Horst.

In another conservation measure, the county will not allow water haulers, who usually fill the big pools, to tap into the Freedom supply. In the first week of June, two haulers drew 370,000 gallons from a storage tank on Martz Road.

"We should keep haulers disconnected," Horst said.

The county plans to address the seasonal water shortages that beset South Carroll. Wells drilled at Springfield Hospital Center could pour an additional 1 million gallons a day into the system. But the wells probably will not be ready until late next summer. Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier asked whether there is any way to speed the process, which requires use and allocation agreements from the state.

An initial draft of that agreement is in the mail, Horst said. But the document must make its way through several county and state agencies before construction can begin.

"It must have language acceptable to all agencies, including language on Smart Growth," said Horst.

The population of South Carroll has nearly tripled in the past 20 years, and state officials often point to it as an example of poor planning. Smart Growth, the governor's legislation, directs development to existing towns and communities.

The county plans six wells, connector lines and a small filtration plant to alleviate the water woes. The system would be built on state-owned land at the hospital. The county is moving ahead with the design but cannot begin to build without state permits.

"The wells should meet the peak demands, at least until the hoped-for expansion of the plant happens," said Horst.

That expansion would allow the plant to treat 5 million gallons a day, but the increase in water allocation and land for new equipment must be approved by Baltimore, which owns the reservoir and the surrounding watershed. Negotiations are continuing, city officials have said.

Horst also gave the commissioners a short list -- with about a dozen addresses -- of those who openly violated the ban. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge asked that each violator be sent a letter.

"This is a first offense," said Gouge.

Continued violation will result in a fine and, eventually, a shut-off.

The county will mail postcards over the next few days to all customers in the Freedom District, notifying them of the change in restrictions.

Pub Date: 6/15/99

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