Crackdown on water usage

County widens ban, warns of fines as residents ignore restrictions

June 02, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

Anne Arundel County officials, saying that too many residents in the northern and western parts of the county are ignoring water restrictions despite a severe shortage, said they plan to crack down on violators if there isn't more compliance.

In a news conference yesterday in Annapolis, County Executive Janet S. Owens said many residents are not heeding those restrictions and implored them to take measures seriously.

Ronald E. Bowen, the director of the county's Public Works Department, agreed: "We don't believe our customers are complying with the weather restrictions as well as we need them to do."

County officials announced yesterday that they had temporarily banned all outdoor water usage along the far western and northern tiers of the county, a further tightening of restrictions there in the face of a recent stretch of dry weather and a water-main break at the Maryland House of Correction in Jessup.

Police Chief P. Thomas Shanahan said his officers would issue warnings for those who violate the outdoor ban, then hand down fines starting at $125 a violation.

Shanahan and Bowen threatened that residents who don't respond to warnings and fines will have their water service shut off.

Residents from Maryland City to Brooklyn Park have been under mandatory water restrictions since May 3, put in place to compensate for a broken water main in Baltimore County that provided significant service to that area.

"We critically need the help of our citizens now," Owens said.

Mandatory water restrictions are in place for the following ZIP codes: 20724, 20701, 20794, 21076, 21090, 21077, 21225, 21240, 21061 and 21144. Voluntary water restrictions are in place for the 21226, 21060 and 21122 ZIP codes.

Until yesterday, residents in the mandatory restriction areas could use water outdoors from midnight to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, but those restrictions were temporarily suspended yesterday.

Fire Chief Ronald D. Blackwell said there is an adequate water supply for his department to fight fires. But because of the shortages in the western and northern areas, he said, it is important for residents to not delay notifying firefighters when they see a fire.

The ban on outdoor water use could last a week, said officials, who hope that renewed conservation efforts will restore water pressure to normal levels and enable them to allow residents to follow the less-restrictive rules on watering lawns, cars and pools.

"We expect the system to recover," Bowen said.

There's no need to expand water restrictions to other parts of the county, officials said, because there's sufficient water pressure and supply elsewhere.

The lack of compliance over Memorial Day weekend, in addition to the breaking of a 12-inch water pipe at the state prison Wednesday night, forced county officials to temporarily cut off the water supply to the Jessup facility and impose new restrictions.

The pipe broke as crews were installing new water valves. "The valve box blew apart," said David Bezanson, assistant secretary for property services for the state Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. State officials said that about half of the prison's 2,500 toilets went off-line because of lack of water pressure after the county cut the water supply, but there is no security risk and the prisoners and staff have adequate water. The prison was expected to have full water capacity by this morning, Bezanson said. "This is not as dire as it sounds, because we have total control over who uses water and when," he said.

After the ban is lifted, the county will remain under the more-relaxed water restrictions until Oct. 1. In the meantime, county officials said, surrounding counties are not in a position to help out.

The 54-inch water main from Baltimore County has been out of commission since January. The closed line delivered 5 million gallons of water a day. Bowen said the pipe might not be repaired until next summer.

"We have to fend for ourselves," Bowen said.phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

water restrictions

Restriction areas

Mandatory water restrictions are in place for the following ZIPcodes: 20724, 20701, 20794, 21076, 21090, 21077, 21225, 21240, 21061 and 21144.

Voluntary water restrictions are in place for the following ZIPcodes: 21226, 21060 and 21122.

Restriction times

Officials this week tightened water restrictions, which are in place 24 hours a day in some areas until further notice.

What is prohibited

Residents within the restricted areas are prohibited from the following activities:

Running water with a free-running hose or sprinkler;

Washing cars, trucks, trailers, boats or other equipment;

Washing outdoor surfaces such as sidewalks, parking areas, decks and patios;

Filling or topping off a private swimming or reflecting pool, fountain or artificial waterfall.

What is permitted

Washing vehicles are permissible at commercial facilities.

To seek more information

Violators should be referred to the county police at 410-222-8610. For information on the water restrictions, call 410-222-4420 or visit www.aacounty.org.

Penalties

The county can impose fines of up to $1,000 and cut water service to violators.

[ Source: Anne Arundel County]

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