County gets go-ahead to drill high-yield well

Project would bring water to parched South Carroll area

Could be tapped by fall

`Mother lode' may produce 340,000 gallons per day

June 29, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

More water will be in the pipeline by fall for South Carroll, the county's most parched and populous area.

State officials issued a permit late Tuesday that will allow Carroll to build the Fairhaven well, a high-yield water source that could at least temporarily alleviate shortages.

"The permit for water appropriations was issued and delivered to Carroll County on Tuesday," said Rich McIntyre, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The well, called a "mother lode" water source by officials, could buy the county at least three years in its effort to address shortages that have often reached critical levels and prompted bans on use for the past three summers in South Carroll.

Construction of the well, a small filtration and pumping station with connecting lines to a county water main can begin as soon as the county selects a contractor for the project.

The well is slated for a 3-acre parcel owned by Fairhaven retirement community along Route 32 in Sykesville. The county negotiated a long-term lease for the land last year. The Fairhaven well could deliver up to 340,000 gallons of water daily to Eldersburg and Sykesville, often called the Freedom area. That amount is more than 10 percent of the daily draw from Liberty Reservoir, owned by Baltimore and the only source of drinking water for more than 6,700 homes and businesses.

"We are very happy and appreciative that this has come through," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "If we have the governor to thank for it, then we will thank him. This is really good news."

The state had advertised its intention to issue the permit in March, but delayed the process. Four state agencies had to pass on the county's application.

"I think this just had to take its time going through the slow state process," said Nimrod Davis, chairman of Freedom Area Citizens Council, a citizens group that serves as an unofficial liaison with the county.

"I figured the county would get the permit," he said. "It shows you don't have to grovel to get what you need. You just have to act like decent people."

South Carroll has endured three consecutive summers of water restrictions and would probably be under a ban on outdoor use now if not for recent rainy weather.

"There certainly is a need for more water in South Carroll and this well certainly will help," said Dell. The county has several bids back and is to award the construction project as soon as possible, said Dell. But help won't arrive this summer, he cautioned. It will be at least September before the well comes on line.

"This will hold the plant below the red line," said Davis. "It is not the biggest help, but it will be a bit of a cushion."

Davis and other slow-growth activists have stressed that improvements to the beleaguered water system must be for residents here now and not to spur new growth.

Without the well, the county was quickly approaching an inadequate water situation and might have been forced to impose a moratorium on construction in its largest growth area. This month, Steven C. Horn, county director of planning, had recommended a ban on home construction "until the commissioners decide a long-term strategy or get short-term relief."

The county has told developers of several large projects, including a shopping center on Route 32 and a housing development for seniors, that it cannot guarantee the water supply.

The Fairhaven well will be the first of a series of six planned to increase the daily water supply in South Carroll by as much as 1.5 million gallons. The county designed a $3 million system but could not take the project any further without state approvals.

The other wells, yet to be approved by the state, would be drilled on state-owned land at Springfield Hospital Center.

The county is also negotiating with Baltimore to increase the amount of water it takes from Liberty Reservoir and expand its treatment plant there. Those discussions hinge on the ratification of an agreement to control development in the watershed area, a pact the county has not endorsed.

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