County taps plan for more water

Two new wells, plant upgrade and expansion to boost output

Region's growth concerns commission

Increase in supply to come to burdened area by next year

South Carroll

September 08, 2004|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners approved a plan yesterday that will augment the public water supply as soon as next year for the more than 20,000 residents of Eldersburg and Sykesville.

Even with immediate improvements, the building boom that has made the area Carroll's most populous and rapidly growing cannot continue. The lack of water, combined with crowded schools, has forced the county to halt residential, commercial and industrial development.

"Essentially, we have no water to allocate for new development," said Franklin Schaeffer, Carroll's deputy director of public works. "But we have sufficient supplies to serve our customers and provide fire protection."

The county will build two wells along Route 32, immediately upgrade the Freedom Water Treatment Plant and implement a $12 million plan to expand the plant within the next four years.

The new wells, known as Freedom and Moxley, would bring to three the number of wells that could add as much as 500,000 gallons to the daily supply. The upgrades, estimated to cost $2.4 million, would make the plant more efficient until the expansion can be completed.

The treatment plant, on Oakland Mills Road, draws water from Liberty Reservoir and pumps it to more than 7,000 homes and businesses in South Carroll. The expansion would eventually more than double the facility's daily output, now set at a maximum of 3 million gallons.

"We absolutely concur on all the recommendations," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge. "They are all way past due."

Two more wells

The new wells are the county's best and most immediate opportunity for additional water, Schaeffer said. They would supplement the Fairhaven well, built two years ago with the capacity to pump about 300,000 gallons a day.

The plan calls for building Freedom well at the eastern end of Freedom Park by the end of the year. By April, a second well would come on line on the Moxley property, where a developer has permits for a subdivision of upscale townhouses. Construction costs are estimated at $2 million for both wells.

The state, which issues allocation and construction permits for wells, has set a combined daily yield limit for the Freedom and Moxley wells at 211,000 gallons. But the possibility exists for more water, officials said.

"Once we know how the well the wells operate, we may be able to go back to the state and ask for an increase in the allocations," Schaeffer said.

Immediate upgrades to the 30-year-old Freedom plant also will add to the supply. The county will work with existing designs for additional equipment. The work, which will take about a year, will involve a second water clarifier, upgrades to filters and pumps and additional piping.

"It is not a total solution, but an interim one to get more capacity until we do a full plant expansion," Schaeffer said.

Steven Powell, the commissioners' chief of staff, said, "We can do this work out of funds set aside for the plant expansion."

All the upgrades are essential to the eventual plant expansion, said Douglas Myers, county director of public works. That project would involve the installation of technology that could double the plant's capacity.

The county has the state permits to build the Freedom and Moxley wells. But improvements to the plant and the expansion must win approval from the Maryland Department of the Environment and from Baltimore, which owns Liberty Reservoir. The city is allowing the county to do preliminary engineering on the property surrounding the plant, Myers said.

"We are trying to move up the schedule in whatever way we can," Myers said. "If we can do the preliminary engineering, we will know sooner what we have to do as far as design. We are also laying out all the technical stuff with MDE to give them a heads-up. That could also speed up the process."

Myers said he expects to complete an agreement with the city within a few months.

"They are helping us to keep things moving," he said.

Proposal tabled

The commissioners tabled a $2.7 million proposal to build four more wells on state-owned property at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville. The county provides water to the hospital and several adjoining state properties, including the Central Laundry Facility prison and the new Police Training Center. Carroll has reserved as much as 400,000 gallons a day for those properties, but use is now at about half that amount.

The state also has lowered its long-range water request for its properties in Carroll by 275,000 gallons to 725,000 gallons.

"That [maximum] amount is 20 years down the road and only if they fully build out," Gouge said.

Schaeffer recommended holding plans for the four Springfield wells, which he called "costly and low-yielding," for the time when the state might need more water for its facilities.

When the Freedom and Moxley wells and upgrades to the plant are completed next year, about 30,000 gallons will be available to cover all obligations and times of peak demand during prolonged hot weather. The commissioners will have to decide how to allocate that buffer amount.

"This is what will tide us over," Schaeffer said. "We have significant water issues here and not a lot of leeway until the plant expansion is completed."

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