Consultant advises Mount Airy to build wells, keep searching for water sources

Survey in growing town was first in 10 years

April 01, 2001|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

To meet its water needs, Mount Airy should build wells, continue to search for water sources and require developers to find their own water supplies, according to a recently released hydrogeolocial survey.

Concerned about the growing town's water supply, the Town Council voted unanimously in November not to accept development proposals during the study, its first comprehensive water survey in 10 years, said Council President R. Delaine Hobbs.

"I feel it was a very worthwhile study, and it proves we have [water] enough to last the next 20 years," Hobbs said.

Mount Airy, a town of about 6,300 people bisected by the Carroll County-Frederick County line, relies entirely on ground water for its public supply. Hobbs suggested the study because so much new information had become available from well and water tests since the last water-supply study in 1991.

The consultant, Hyder North America of Hagerstown, used existing data, including average water use and peak demand, actual and potential well yields, and the effects of past drought and future development.

The town's eight wells met an average demand of 589,360 gallons a day last year, and the consumption rate was close to the standard used by the Maryland Department of the Environment for dwellings and businesses, according to the report.

"Over the years, these wells have provided a reliable source of water to meet the town's needs; however, with proposed future development, there is a significant question as to whether or not the town's existing water supply is adequate," the report said of the quantity of water.

The wells range in depth from 150 to 410 feet, drawing water from a relatively shallow zone of rock below the surface, with potential yields ranging from 72,000 to more than 300,000 gallons a day.

In the past four years, drought has caused stress on wells, but the water supply generally has remained adequate, the report found. But the system might not be able to adapt if there were a mechanical failure or well collapse.

If the Mount Airy area grows to the limits of its 1994 comprehensive plan, the projected average daily need would climb to more than 1.6 million gallons a day, the consultants found.

Among other recommendations, the consultants said the town should :

Move quickly to construct two wells, which Hobbs said should be in service by the middle of next year.

Keep searching for water, even after the two new wells are operating.

Seek an increase to 200,000 gallons a day in the state allocation for one well, from which the town has been drawing far more than its 19,000-gallon permit. That increase is being sought, Hobbs said.

Annex land outside the town to gain control of the water recharge area for some wells.

Require would-be developers to find water supplies exceeding the amount they need.

"By having the developer provide more water than their needs, the town should be able to continue to meet the demands placed on the current system," the consultants said.

As a result of the study, applications for new development will be accepted again this month, Hobbs said.

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