Plan is set for easing water woes

State, county agree to open five new wells to aid residents

Summer brings shortage

New filtration plant, connecting lines also part of the bargain

June 27, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Maryland and Carroll administrators hammered out an agreement Friday that will increase the water supply to South Carroll, the county's most populated area and one troubled by seasonal shortages, with new wells.

The state Water Utility and Supply Agreement will allow Carroll to build five wells, a small filtration plant and connecting lines on state-owned land at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville. The operation will supplement the Freedom District Plant, which can treat as much as 3 million gallons daily drawn from the Liberty Reservoir.

"We expect a fully executed agreement within 30 days and easements for laying pipe shortly thereafter," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works. "The agreement explains each other's responsibilities."

While awaiting state approval, the county has proceeded with planning and design of a five-well system. Once the agreement is signed, construction -- which is estimated at about $3 million -- can begin, with completion set for about a year from now.

The agreement details how much water the county can draw from the ground and sets the amount it must supply to state agencies that rely on the public system.

In the last year, county crews drilled about 20 test wells and found five that together would yield about 1.2 million gallons daily. That water would be added to the daily allocation from the reservoir owned by Baltimore.

"We are physically designing a well system to be able to take raw water from the ground, pipe it to a central location for treatment and then integrate it with treated water from the reservoir," said Evans.

More water is vital to the 6,500 homes and businesses in South Carroll connected to the public water system. About 18,000 people use water from the Freedom treatment plant.

South Carroll, which includes Eldersburg and Sykesville, is vexed by seasonal water shortages. The county imposed a ban June 1 on outdoor water use in the area, when demand exceeded the plant's capacity. The ban was relaxed June 14, allowing for outdoor use on alternating days, depending on the street address.

Three wells that are each expected to produce about 200,000 gallons a day are located near the hospital administration buildings. Crews will also rebuild an abandoned well at the State Laundry Facility, a minimum-security prison adjacent to the hospital.

The fifth and most prolific well -- yielding about 350,000 gallons a day -- is on property owned by Fairhaven Retirement Community. The county is negotiating a right-of-way agreement.

The wells will augment the daily allocation that Carroll draws from Liberty Reservoir. Plans also call for a $5 million expansion and more equipment at the plant, which would allow the facility to treat as much as 5 million gallons a day. Baltimore has not yet approved the expansion and the increase in water allocation.

The Springfield wells are the first phase of the project to allay South Carroll's water problems. The county will also look for additional ground water at Freedom Park, Evans said.

"If we could find another million gallons in the ground surrounding the park, we would be at our original goal of 2 million," Evans said, referring to the amount of water the county would have processed had it built a second treatment plant at Piney Run Lake.

Several years ago, the county had planned a $16 million treatment plant at Piney Run, but scrapped the project as too costly.

"We can get the same amount of water from the wells without risking volume and recreational uses at Piney Run," said Evans. "We won't even approach the original cost of building and staffing a new plant."

Although the well system is designed, the county cannot proceed with construction until all state agencies have approved the project.

"We have committed more than $100,000 to planning this project, but we cannot commit millions to construction until we have the state OKs," said Evans. "This is a major step in the right direction."

The state will remain the largest single water consumer in South Carroll, with an eventual daily requirement of 1 million gallons. The hospital, which supplies several other state facilities in South Carroll, uses about 400,000 gallons daily.

"Our 1992 agreement refers to 1 million gallons, and we are comfortable with that," said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services. "But it would be helpful to us to know when the state will need that amount. Then we could determine when we need the infrastructure."

The agreement also includes language to complement the governor's Smart Growth initiative to reduce sprawl.

"The county's access to state property for the purpose of drilling and maintaining wells shall only be for the purpose of meeting the county's existing needs or to support additional demands in the county's planned growth areas," the agreement says. "Any increase in county water demand shall be consistent with the county master plan."

Pub Date: 6/27/99

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