Baltimore City to let Carroll County improve, but not expand, water plant

April 12, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll County can make improvements to its Freedom Water Treatment Plant at Liberty Reservoir but cannot draw more water to serve its most populous area.

The county plans to install nearly $1 million in new equipment, including $600,000 for a second solids contact chamber, in the 30-year-old filtration plant in Eldersburg. The improvements would make the plant capable of delivering more water to South Carroll residents, who have endured three consecutive summers of shortages, said Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services.

But Baltimore City, which owns the 45-billion-gallon lake and the surrounding watershed, will not allow the county to increase its daily allocation of 3 million gallons or to proceed with plant expansion.

The city is withholding those approvals until Carroll reaffirms its commitment to protecting the watershed. To get more water from the city, Carroll must add its endorsement to a long-standing agreement signed by Baltimore and the metropolitan counties that use the reservoir.

Carroll officials hailed the city's go-ahead for new equipment as a breakthrough in negotiations.

"This is a major step in the right direction," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works. "We have been at loggerheads over this for two years."

At Evans' urging, the county commissioners decided yesterday to put the equipment contract out to bid.

"We should go forward with final designs, while everybody is in the mood to say `yes,' " Evans said. "This approval opens the door for the next stage of negotiations."

New equipment is the initial step in a $5 million plan to expand the plant that supplies about 18,000 residents and businesses in South Carroll with water. If the county is to meet the increasing demands on the plant, it needs to nearly double its daily draw.

Carroll is the only metropolitan jurisdiction that has refused to ratify the environmental pact.

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