Outdoor water use banned in N. Arundel

August 01, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens has ordered an outdoor-watering ban through at least Thursday for the northern third of the county, pointing to an extreme loss of water pressure that she called "alarming."

The around-the-clock outdoor ban affects an estimated 200,000 residents on the public water system in the county's most populated section, from Laurel and Brooklyn Park to Glen Burnie and Pasadena.

This marks the second time Owens has instituted an outdoor prohibition on water use this year to combat shortages.

Yesterday, county officials put the situation in the most dire terms after a 42-inch main burst Saturday in Glen Burnie. At least 3 million gallons were lost, reducing water pressure to almost nothing in some places that night, including Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

"Our No. 1 concern is that all residents have some water - everyone in this northern part of the county," Owens said.

Forecasters are calling for temperatures that could exceed 100 degrees through Thursday. While acknowledging the severe heat, Owens has called on police to issue an initial warning to violators, then fines. Police officials said repeat violators could have their service cut off.

"We are now declaring no outdoor watering whatsoever," Owens said.

Owens instituted an outdoor-watering ban Sunday for three ZIP codes - areas of Glen Burnie, Pasadena, Curtis Bay and Orchard Beach - and officials directed limited supply from western areas to compensate. As water levels have risen in the east, they have dropped dangerously in the west, prompting Owens yesterday to prohibit all outdoor public water use for 13 ZIP codes. Limitations do not apply to residents on private wells.

A 16-foot-long main is being driven from Illinois and should arrive today in Glen Burnie. Officials are optimistic they can replace the pipe by Wednesday and pull back from the mandatory restrictions by Thursday.

On top of the outdoor restrictions, county officials are urging affected residents to conserve indoor water use by avoiding flushing toilets unnecessarily, storing drinking water in the refrigerator instead of letting the tap run for cool water, and using washers and dishwashers only when they are full.

The county's health officer, Frances B. Phillips, said the lack of water pressure was not "a public health emergency," but that given the humid heat wave that is approaching from the Southeast, she and other officials were preparing for the worst, especially the potential lack of water for assisted-living centers and nursing homes.

"This a very serious matter," Phillips said. "We take water for granted. We can't do that this week."

Residents from Laurel to Brooklyn Park had been living under water restrictions since May 3 because of a broken 54-inch water main in Baltimore County, which has cost Anne Arundel County some 5 million gallons of water a day. Heavy use over the Memorial Day holiday, coupled with a subsequent water main break in Jessup, prompted Owens to ban outdoor public water use in those areas for six days in June.

Fire Chief Ronald D. Blackwell said yesterday that his department will deploy extra tanker trucks to handle fire calls in areas of the county without fire hydrants. He added that Howard County and Prince George's County are among other jurisdictions that have volunteered tankers and transport vehicles.

For four hours Saturday night at Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, officials there resorted to a "disaster plan," said Mary Lanham, director of marking and public relations.

County fire trucks supplied water to keep the air-conditioning system functioning. Hospital officials relied on bottled drinking water and the toilets were not allowed to be flushed. Lanham said the hospital was functioning normally yesterday.

"It all worked out very well considering the circumstances," Lanham said.

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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