When A Fountain Fizzles


The 150-year-old Fixture In Druid Lake Has Ceased

July 26, 2009|By Liz F. Kay

The problem:: The fountain in Druid Lake has stopped flowing.

The back story:: Tough budget times would not justify this loss for Michael Baseman.

The Reservoir Hill resident always enjoyed glimpsing the fountain in Druid Hill Park when he drove by or strolled around the reservoir. He particularly admired the play of the colored light in the streams of water after dusk or before sunrise.

But, to his dismay, the fountain - usually in operation from spring through fall - has been dry for months. "Please, I don't want to hear that it is a cost-saving measure or a way to save energy," Baseman wrote in an e-mail to Watchdog.

FOR THE RECORD - The Watchdog feature in Sunday's editions incorrectly reported the age of Druid Lake's fountain. It is 50 years old.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

"The view of the fountain ... is one of life's pleasures that all who pass by should be able to enjoy," he wrote.

Thankfully, it's not budget constraints that have turned off the fountain, but some minor design flaws, city public works spokesman Kurt Kocher said. A consultant has been investigating several issues, and a complete report is expected by the end of July.

The fountain, which turns 150 years old this year, is no stranger to Watchdog readers. It underwent a $700,000 renovation in 2004, only to have a lightning strike blow out its electrical system two years ago. Now, the fountain may be having problems with phragmites, an invasive water plant. Officials are also concerned a foot valve that primes the pump may be faulty.

"Basically, there may be a design flaw or there may be another problem related to phragmites or other vegetation getting into the foot valve," he said.

A diver also reported that some of the riprap that stabilizes the fountain had broken apart and settled near the intake valve, perhaps cracking or crimping it.

It would cost $6,000 to fix the foot valve, but public works officials are considering upgrading to a vacuum system that is easier to prime to keep the fountain going, Kocher said.

"What we want to do if it comes down to the valve, rather than to replace something that isn't terribly reliable, to upgrade to a vacuum system," he said.

Who can fix this:: Ralph Cullison, chief of environmental services, Bureau of Water and Wastewater, Department of Public Works, 410-396-0539. City residents should call 311 to report problems.

- Liz F. Kay

Need help?

Is there something in your neighborhood that's not getting fixed? Tell us where the problem is and how long it's been there by e-mailing watchdog@baltsun.com or calling 410-332-6735.

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