Well pact in `final steps'

State approval would help ease annual water woes

Third year of limits


August 22, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The state is in the final stages of reviewing a county plan to build wells at Springfield Hospital Center that would help relieve water shortages in the county's most populated area, Maryland officials said.

The county cannot proceed with construction of the wells in Sykesville without the approval of four state agencies. The wells would supplement the water supply for the system's 18,000 customers.

South Carroll is under its third consecutive summer of water restrictions because of drought and the county treatment plant's inability to handle more water. Restrictions on outside water use were imposed June 1, two months before statewide limits were announced.

"I think the agreement is moving through the process normally," said Ronald M. Kreitner, director of the Maryland Office of Planning. "I would expect it to be in the final steps."

Administrators for the state and county negotiated a water agreement in June. Carroll officials had been told the agreement would be completed by July 30, but the document has yet to win the go-ahead from the state.

In addition to the planning office, the state departments of General Services, the Environment and Health and Mental Hygiene, which supervises the hospital, all participate in the review.

Carroll has spent nearly $100,000 looking for wells on the hospital grounds. It has located three near hospital administration buildings and one on land owned by Fairhaven Retirement Community, adjacent to Springfield. Plans also call for rebuilding an existing well at the State Laundry Facility, a minimum-security prison adjacent to the hospital.

The county negotiated a lease with Fairhaven this month. A well there would be the most productive, yielding about 300,000 gallons of water a day. Work will not begin on the Fairhaven well until the county has a firm agreement with the state.

Plans call for linking all five wells with a small, centrally located treatment facility, also on the hospital grounds. Once the wells are operating, they are expected to deliver about 1.5 million gallons of water a day and supplement the 3 million gallons the county draws daily from Liberty Reservoir, which is owned by Baltimore City.

Kreitner said he sees no stumbling blocks to the agreement.

"We have to coordinate agency reviews of what the state proposes for nonstate purposes," he said. "We do an analysis in terms of implications for future use."

Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services, said he has been told repeatedly that the agreement is working its way through channels.

"If there are real concerns, we don't know where they are coming from," said Horst. "We have no reason to believe we left anything out and no reason to expect the signing will be put off indefinitely."

The state insisted the agreement include language on Smart Growth, the governor's initiative to control sprawl and direct development to existing communities. The county had no problem with adding the wording, Horst said.

"We will not be delivering this water anywhere but to a planned growth area," Horst said.

The state wants the well supply to satisfy existing needs, not spur development, Kreitner said, adding that his office was satisfied with the agreement.

"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 of the county's planned growth area," the agreement says. "Any increase in county water demand shall be consistent with the county master plan."

The Maryland Association of Counties convention in Ocean City last week gave county officials one more opportunity to lobby on behalf of the project, Horst said.

"I expect this week will be the watershed as far as the agreement is concerned," he said.

The county would like to have the wells ready by next summer to serve about 6,700 South Carroll homes and businesses that are on the public system.

County crews are testing for other possible well sites in isolated areas of Freedom Park. They might also look at private property at Route 32 and Raincliffe Road.

Kreitner urged patience.

"This is a public process of checks and balances," he said. "We have to make sure easements do not impact on other agencies. The state looks out for its interests."

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