Water woes under study

Commissioners weigh expansion vs. new treatment plant

Raw water price to rise

Consultant's study finds cost difference of about $2 million

June 20, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

While water shortages loom in South Carroll, county officials wonder: Should we build a new plant at the county's own reservoir or expand an existing plant at Liberty Reservoir, owned by Baltimore City?

In a closed session yesterday with engineering consultants, the commissioners reviewed the history of the water problems in Carroll's most populous area and their options.

From Black & Veach, a Gaithersburg engineering company, they learned that the difference between building a new treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir, a county-owned lake in Sykesville, and expanding the aging Freedom Water Treatment Plant at Liberty is less than $2 million.

The growing South Carroll area, home to nearly 30,000 residents, will soon need 6 million gallons of water daily. The Freedom plant can treat half that amount.

Doubling the plant's capacity would cost $4.75 million, with an additional $7 million for new pipelines and equipment. The estimate for constructing a new plant at Piney Run is $13.35 million. As a county-owned and operated plant, it would bring flexibility and self-sufficiency, the consultant's study says.

With the city increasing the cost of raw water drawn from Liberty by nearly $90,000 for the same amount by 2002, the county might find it more practical to develop its own water source, the study shows. Carroll now pays $200,000 annually for the water.

"If we expand Freedom and use 4.4 million gallons daily, we will pay $576,000 to Baltimore annually at least," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works. "With a new plant on a lake we own, we won't have to spend that. The payback could be about six years."

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier has stated frequently that she prefers construction of a Piney Run plant to begging for water from the city or the state. Her two colleagues are waiting to hear from the county's budget officers.

"The budget presentation next week will help the commissioners come to the true bottom lines," said Evans.

"The engineering study and the budget will bring the two options into perspective," he said.

Black & Veach designed a Piney Run plant several years ago, and with tweaking, the design plans could be revived, Evans said.

About four years ago, Carroll officials scrapped new construction and made plans to develop well sources and expand the existing plant, built nearly 30 years ago on the shores of Liberty Reservoir.

The wells - a series of six are proposed on state-owned property near Route 32 - and the plant expansion are stalled in negotiations while South Carroll girds itself for a fourth summer of restrictions on water use.

That predicament has the commissioners rethinking Piney Run. They authorized the study and are reviewing the budget before making a final decision.

"We want to be as balanced as we can with the information, so the commissioners can make an eyes-wide-open decision," said Evans. "The decision is economically directed. The commissioners showed a great deal of interest in the numbers and wanted all potential benefits identified."

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