Water project set to start

Eldersburg expansion more than doubles plant capacity

May 20, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

Carroll County will break ground on a new Freedom District Water Treatment Plant in Eldersburg tomorrow, which, when operable by February 2009, will more than double the amount of water the system can process, county officials said.

The amount of water that would be processed would go from 3 million gallons a day to a total of 7 million gallons a day, officials said.

No new subdivisions can be approved or developed in portions of South Carroll until the new plant comes online on the grounds of the existing system, county public works director Mike Evans said.

The Freedom District plant currently provides treated water drawn from Baltimore's Liberty Reservoir to about 8,000 customers, Evans said.

"There's not an adequate supply of water to approve new subdivisions," Evans said. "Schools and water are the two whammies. Once there's an abundant supply of water, there will still be school restrictions in some of the areas."

Once the new plant is up, age-restricted developments for senior citizens that don't impact local schools may flourish in the Eldersburg area, Evans said.

Several expensive projects are under way to help alleviate Carroll County's persistent struggles with providing an adequate amount of water, based on new regulations implemented by the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Ultimately, most municipalities may be relying on two costly reservoirs at Gillis Falls and Union Mills as long-term, regional water solutions.

Plans for the new Freedom plant come as Westminster is building a new water treatment plant, a pumping station and raw water main to the Medford Quarry.

Bids for the replacement plant initially came in at almost double what the city had budgeted for the project, Westminster Mayor Thomas K. Ferguson said.

Westminster re-bid the project, and through value engineering with Conewago Contractors Inc., the plant will cost about $8 million, up from the original price tag of $5.5 million, Ferguson said.

Like the new Freedom District plant, the Westminster facility is expected to start treating water in February 2009.

Other water projects could strain municipal budgets as well.

The smaller towns of New Windsor and Union Bridge have struggled with the costs of upgrading their aging wastewater treatment systems, town officials have said.

To support future development, Taneytown plans to develop a 1.5 million-gallon surface water source fed by Big Pipe Creek, according to city officials.

Newly re-elected Manchester Mayor Christopher B. D'Amario said he is in talks with a land owner over a potential water source that could meet his town's demand for the next 20 years.

Engineering for Westminster's Medford Quarry pipeline, which will require a few more land easements, is nearly complete, Ferguson said.

Construction on the $6.5 million yearlong project is scheduled to begin sometime this summer, he said.

"It's strictly to address the drought of record water deficit," Ferguson said of the emergency pipeline to be built to the city's Cranberry Reservoir.

The Freedom District project is even larger in scope. The county has awarded an approximately $27 million design-build contract. The Construction Dynamics Group in Columbia was to construct the Freedom District plant, with another $4 million budgeted to pipe water from the new plant into the system.

Paid by fees

An enterprise fund made up of connection and user fees, separate from the county's general budget, will pay for the expansion, Evans said.

"It's paid for by the users," he said. "With the cost of the debt service, how much can we build and expect to pay back in 20 years?"

Upgrading the existing Freedom District pipeline will create some disruption for residents who live along Oakland, Mineral Hill and Oklahoma roads, Evans said.

A third plant with another filtration unit could eventually be constructed for the Freedom District, but only once that demand is demonstrated, Evans said. He said the system's footprint anticipates such future expansion.

"Plants like this traditionally grow in increments," Evans said.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

The groundbreaking for the new Freedom District Water Treatment Plant will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow, 5631 Oakland Road, Sykesville, next to the existing treatment plant.

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