Water limits may end early

Officials say system improvements could bring relief before Oct. 1

July 05, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

For all the rain that fell last week on Anne Arundel County, none of it made a dent in the mandatory water restrictions faced by thousands of residents in the western and northern tiers of the county.

Five days of storms that ended Wednesday dropped 4 1/2 inches of rain on Severn and more than 5 inches on Crofton, Odenton and Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, according to estimates by the National Weather Service.

But if an effort by the county's Department of Public Works remains on schedule, water restrictions that have been in place since May could be relaxed or lifted weeks before the scheduled end date of Oct. 1.

The department has installed more than a mile of water main from the Dorsey Run water treatment plant in an effort to create a pipeline that would direct about 1 million gallons daily toward affected communities from Maryland City to Brooklyn Park, according to Matt Mirenzi, a utility operations administrator for the department.

County officials hope that construction of the pipeline, along with other distribution adjustments to the water system, can compensate for 5 million gallons of water lost each day because of a broken 54-inch water main in Baltimore County.

The effort to lay the water main is at least 80 percent complete, said Mirenzi, adding that the county is installing three temporary water-booster stations. The county's water system is divided into zones. The stations would help raise the water pressure enough to transfer water from one zone to another.

Mirenzi said a number of projects must be completed in the next two months if the restrictions are to be relaxed or waived.

"If we can do it earlier than October, then we will," he said.

Public water users in the affected areas may use water outdoors only during specified times. An outdoor ban applies on holidays. County officials also placed voluntary restrictions on most residents of Marley Neck Peninsula, excluding Gibson Island.

Officials began restricting public water use after the discovery in January of the deteriorated 54-inch water main. Officials estimate that repairs to that main won't be complete until next year.

Heavy water use over the extended Memorial Day weekend, along with a pipe break at a state prison in Jessup, forced county officials to institute a full ban on outdoor water use for six days. Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, a Democrat, was among those who were critical of residents for not complying with the restrictions.

Owens said last week she was "worried these citizens would have to spend a whole summer under these restrictions" when she imposed them, starting in early May.

Owens said, though, she is confident that the Public Works Department can complete its work before October.

"It's coming, but not as fast as we all like," she said.

County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat, said the importance of restoring water pressure to the western and northern reaches is crucial because of the number of high-rise buildings, such as those in the BWI Business Corridor. Lack of pressure could hamper sprinkler systems.

Beidle said that the Public Works Department has "done as much as they can to get ahead of a major crisis."

County officials said the recent stretch of storms has helped cut the demand for public water, as residents have had little need to water their lawns.

But with that rain gone, county officials know the clock is ticking.phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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