New Windsor underground water tank approved in effort to improve firefighters' water access

The Board of County Commissioners approved the installation of a 30,000-gallon underground water tank in New Windsor to assist the New Windsor and Union Bridge fire districts in areas with little water access.

The tank will be installed at 1801 Hoke Road, for $119,500 and is covered by the county’s approved budget. It comes after a Pleasant Valley water tank was installed earlier this year.


“It’s because this site is, A, in a region the local fire chief said is in need of improvement for fire protection water supply, and [B], the generosity of the folks who own this property,” said Public Safety Director Scott Campbell at the commissioners meeting Thursday.

“[They] are offering the rights to this land at no cost to the county,” he said, so the only costs are for the tank and installation.


There are currently 10 underground water tanks across Carroll County, in areas where there is the greatest need as determined by local fire chiefs, Campbell said.

Access to water

The last tanks to be installed were: in Pleasant Valley at the North Carroll Community School on Stone Road off Md. 97, on Heath Drive in Eldersburg, on Cherrytown Road off of Md. 97 north of Westminster, and in Harney.

As the Department of Public Safety nears the finish line on a water tank in Eldersburg for fire protection, it is seeking the go-ahead from County Commissioners for its next project: a 30,000 gallon water tank at the North Carroll Community School.

Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, a former Baltimore County firefighter who currently serves in Pleasant Valley, offered first-hand experience Thursday on why the underground tanks are important to his colleagues.

“In areas that don't have hydrants, these things are priceless,” Wantz said, “especially this time of year. It’s not cold yet, but typically we’re out there chopping ice at 2 a.m., and this alleviates having to do that in many of these areas in order to get to a pond.”


And the time used to break ice for pond access — or pull equipment and personnel out of the mud around certain water sources after a rainy year — is critical time that could be dedicated to fighting fires, he told the Times this week.


The approved tank will be made of fiberglass, be 55 feet long and hold 30,000 gallons of water, and once it is underground it will be invisible.

But Campbell said the excavation and installation can be overwhelming when people do not know it’s coming.

“When these excavations are made, it’s scary,” he said.

The Carroll County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Local 5184 were formally presented their International Association of Fire Fighters charter Wednesday, Dec. 12, after chartering in July.

“But when it’s done, the ground is covered and you can’t even see it’s there,” said Wantz.

New Windsor, which is in the northern part of District 4, is represented by Commissioner Eric Bouchat.

“I appreciate that attention is being paid [to this area],” Bouchat said.

He said he went out once with the Winfield volunteer fire company for a training day and saw the tanks in use.

“I had no idea how many of these tanks exist,” Bouchat said. “We just take for granted that there’s a water supply. Is there a mandate?”

Campbell said although there is no mandate, the locations are determined by asking the fire chiefs to make a list of their top five locations for underground water tanks. Then the Department of Public Safety creates a master list using those locations, and determining areas of highest priority based on their distance from other water sources.


“You said there are 10 in the county,” Commissioner Ed Rothstein, R-District 5, said. “How many times have they been used?”

The public safety director said the fire companies do not keep track of where water for each fire call comes from, but could confirm that within a month of installing Harney’s fire tank, it was put to use.

And Wantz said he has used the tanks on Cherrytown Road and in Silver Run.

Rothstein said the intention of his question was to inform the public on the utility of these tanks.

“It’s obvious you are doing this strategic approach in putting them in the right places,” he said. “But for the community to understand the value of these things: They’re expensive, and you're putting them in, and it takes resources to do that. For the community and county to understand that, and say yes, they have been used.”

And Commissioner Richard Weaver, R-District 2, asked how the tanks are refilled once they are used.

“If a little [water] is used, we have some large-capacity tankers and [the fire companies] are gracious enough to fill them,” Campbell said. “If there’s a substantial draw, we fill them. We have funds to do that, it’s a very reasonable cost.”

Campbell also said there are two future water tank locations being considered — one where Md. 482 intersects with Md. 27, and one in Frizzellburg.

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