Officials seeking water supply

Well near Sykesville, more from reservoir are being considered

March 10, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll officials hope to ease water woes in the county's most populated area with a single well near Sykesville, one of several solutions planned to increase the supply of drinking water in South Carroll.

The county is meeting today with Baltimore's Department of Public Works, seeking a 2 million gallon increase in its daily allocation from the city-owned Liberty Reservoir, the primary water source for South Carroll. It is also asking for permits to expand the Freedom water treatment plant, which handles 3 million gallons of water a day and is on city-owned property.

"We want to meet with George Winfield [city director of public works] and go over our various problems with him so he has a clear understanding," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works. "It would be nice if we walked out of there with an agreement, but we don't expect that. A clear and friendly understanding is what we are after."

The county would like to expand the plant built in the early 1970s, add backup equipment and increase its allocation simultaneously, Evans said.

"We know the water is there for an increase, but the plant is more finite," Evans said. "We need redundancy of equipment."

The county is negotiating with the state for permits to build a series of wells on the grounds of Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville. At least four state agencies must approve the well project. Evans characterized those negotiations as unresolved. State planning officials had no comment yesterday.

"We continue to hope there will be some break in negotiations with the state and the city," said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services. "Those two factors determine what the commissioners can do about the water supply. Without the city, we can't expand the plant. Without the state, we can't build the wells."

The single well on 3 acres leased from Fairhaven Retirement Community is considered high-yield, but it is only a reprieve from the persistent water shortages in South Carroll, home to 28,000, county officials said.

"Bringing the Fairhaven well on line around Memorial Day is critical," Horst said. "But this is only a one-year solution, a reprieve."

The county will build the well and a small filtration plant on the Fairhaven property. That plant would also serve a proposed series of five wells the county expects to build on nearby state-owned property.

The county hopes to bring the new well on line by Memorial Day because the long weekend typically means alarming spikes in water use. Last year, holiday demand on the plant far exceeded its capacity and stressed its 30-year-old equipment. The county was forced to use water it holds in storage tanks and to enact a ban on outdoor use that lasted through September.

The new well can pump as much as 340,000 gallons daily at its peak, an amount that is more than 10 percent of the county's daily draw of 3 million gallons from Liberty Reservoir.

"A 10 percent increase gives us a cushion at our peak need," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works. "Unless there is a huge drought, we should be OK. But people should know any bucket can dry up."

One well or several will not be a viable solution, said Donna Slack, a community activist. She favors increasing the supply from the reservoir because it would have less of an impact on private wells in the area.

"They are just not doing enough to address this problem," Slack said. "If you drink with a bunch of straws, there is only so much water you can suck out."

For the past three summers, South Carroll has been subjected to water restrictions that limit outdoor use. Residents in some of the county's most expensive homes watched their lawns brown and landscaping die.

Slack also wondered if the city or the state would come to the aid of Carroll County.

"If Carroll County continues to make this problem worse with uncontrolled growth, why should the city or state help?" she said.

Crowded schools have curtailed most residential development in South Carroll, where about 18,000 residents and businesses rely on the public water supply. The scarcity of water might call a halt to growth completely, officials said. As plans proceed for two major developments in Eldersburg -- a shopping center and a 265-unit retirement community -- officials have said they cannot make water available until new resources come on line.

"We cannot guarantee water allocation at this time and until additional water sources are on line," Reed Muse, county utilities engineer, said at a recent development review hearing.

The well project could go out to bid as soon as next week, Evans said. The state advertised its intention to issue a permit Monday. It will not schedule a public hearing unless one is requested.

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