Thumbs up: Carroll County is doing a checkup on the 74-foot-tall earthen dam at Piney Run Reservoir. Safety comes first, so we support the work. The checkup, expected to be a two-year-long study, aims to assess any possible deficiencies in Piney Run Dam, which was built in 1974. The Maryland Department of the Environment noted concerns about the dam possibly not meeting current criteria, and this dam is the only one the county owns that is classified as “high hazard” by MDE. Piney Run Dam is one of 93 dams statewide that MDE has designated high hazard, though experts tell us that doesn’t necessarily mean there are immediate risks. We agree with the philosophy of erring on the side of caution and making sure that the dam doesn’t go unwatched for too long, and that philosophy appears to be in place here. After all, the stakes could be high; Md. 32 and the Warfield Complex are downstream from the dam, which sits in the populated southern area of the county. If it were to break, well, we prefer not to think about that. Now, we’ll be clear — there is no indication there’s any risk of South Carroll taking on the look of a disaster movie set any time soon. Of course, the thing about the weather is it’s unpredictable by nature. But the amount of rain that would be needed to cause this dam to breach is simply immense, according to Chris Heyn, county watershed restoration engineer. The dam’s emergency spillway is designed to hold 27 inches of rain over a period of six hours, and the closest Carroll County has come to that, he said, was in 1975, when Hurricane Eloise dumped a little more than 14 inches of rain over a few days. For reference, the 2016 flood that ravaged historic Ellicott City was caused by 6.5 inches of rain, and the storm that again devastated the town just two years later brought over 7 inches of rain. We don’t see reason to freak out about South Carroll getting washed away, but we’re glad that state and county are being proactive in its observation of this critical piece of infrastructure.

Thumbs up: The Freedom District Wastewater Treatment Plant in Sykesville should be operating in a more environmentally friendly manner now, and that’s always a good thing. The upgrades, which the Maryland Environmental Service implemented from 2014 through this past August, allow the plant to more effectively filter out pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous from wastewater treated by the plant. The treated wastewater from the plant, which services an area covering about 6,755 acres, is discharged into a tributary of the Patapsco River. So these upgrades should help improve the water quality downstream, benefiting our neighbors and, eventually, the Chesapeake Bay. “There is some structure from the previous facility, but essentially, overall, it is a new facility,” Craig Renner of the Maryland Environmental Service told us. The plant has been in operation since the 1970s, so that’s good news to hear.

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Thumbs up: At last, South Carroll will have its own space devoted to doggie playtime. The Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks and the Friends of South Carroll Dog Park will jointly host a groundbreaking and fundraiser event today at the future site of the park, behind the South Carroll Senior & Community Center at 5928 Mineral Hill Road. The South Carroll Dog Park, which is planned to open in late spring 2020, has been the goal of a community campaign that started up in 2016. The park fills a bit of a gap, providing residents in that area of the county with a nearby place to take their furry companions for some social time. The beauty of this campaign has been its community-level engine. The committee behind the push for the park raised tens of thousands of dollars and lined up matching funds from a grant that was only an option because the committee persuaded the county commissioners to vote in favor of granting the group eligibility for the “self-help” grant. Saturday will also feature a Puppy Costume PAWrade, and we’re certain tails will be wagging in celebration.

Thumbs up: It took almost a year, but a new occupant of the former Friendly’s building has come forward. That restaurant, at the 140 Village Shopping Center, had served locals for nearly two decades, so its loss was clearly felt throughout the Westminster community. Any time a beloved business closes is a shame, so it’s encouraging to see that the space — on a can’t-miss-it stretch of the major artery of Md. 140 — won’t go empty for much longer. Mission BBQ plans to open its first Carroll location there in 2020, with its first day of service tentatively planned for late summer or early fall. We reckon there will be some local barbecue fans licking their chops already.

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