Well in Sykesville flows with potential early in test

`Things looking good,' expert says of bid to ease water shortage

January 06, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The county has begun drilling a test well on property within the town of Sykesville, with hopes of augmenting the water supply for Carroll's most populated area.

Twenty-four hours into the test, the well is producing 200 gallons a minute. It could yield at least 144,000 gallons a day and as much as 300,000 gallons a day, said Tom Devilbiss, county hydrogeologist. The test will continue for several days with results available early next week.

"Things are looking good so far," said Devilbiss. "Anything over 100 gallons per minute is good."

The county chose to test-drill one well on the Raincliffe property, a 32-acre parcel at Route 32 and Raincliffe Road. If the well is productive, the county would buy or lease a small portion of the property.

Construction of a high-yield well -- 300,000 gallons per day -- is proceeding nearby on property that the county is leasing from Fairhaven Retirement Community.

While South Carroll, home to 28,000, has endured three straight summers of water restrictions, the county has pursued several options to increase the supply. Plans to build a series of wells -- which could produce about 500,000 gallons daily for the public water system -- on state-owned property at Springfield Hospital Center have stalled for lack of an agreement with the state.

"We are just testing for one well at Raincliffe," said Devilbiss. "We are hoping that it will be in addition to the Springfield wells. I would hate to think we went through all that work to locate wells there and would not utilize them."

The county spent more than $100,000 to locate five wells at the hospital and a sixth on Fairhaven property. The project is designed but cannot be built without state approval. The governor's office canceled a Dec. 14 meeting with the county commissioners, and further talks have not been scheduled.

J. Michael Evans, county director of public works, said he remains optimistic an agreement can be reached. "But this is as classic a Catch-22 a situation as you can be in," he said.

Several sources have said the well agreement is tied to a working relationship between the county and town on the development of Warfield, a 138-acre parcel that was once part of the hospital.

Sykesville, which annexed Warfield a year ago, plans to restore its 15 buildings as a business and academic center. It will need more water to proceed with those plans.

The town recently rezoned the Raincliffe site from industrial to residential. Unable to market the property for business, owner David Moxley, a Howard County developer, is planning a 120-lot subdivision instead.

While waiting for a final agreement from the state, the county must pursue other options, said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services.

"What else can we do? We are optimistic people trying to work things out with the state," said Horst. "But we have fairly immediate needs.

"We are drilling on property where the owners are allowing us access. It makes more sense than waiting hat in hand. We want to seek agreement with the state, but it is proving to be a drawn-out process."

No matter how many wells the county locates, the state will make the final decision on how much water can be drawn from the ground, Horst said. State officials probably will take the Fairhaven and Raincliffe wells into the final accounting.

"What we get from the state will ultimately reflect their degree of comfort about what can be taken from the whole basin," said Horst. "It will all be taken into account. There is only so much water in the original area we are drilling into."

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