Harford County officials unveiled the $70.4 million expansion of the Abingdon Water Treatment Plant on Thursday afternoon, which will double the plant's current capacity of processing 10 million gallons of water daily and serve more than 43,000 customers.
"Assuring that we have good infrastructure has been one of the key initiatives for me as county executive," Harford County Executive David Craig told a roomful of about 50 officials, county council members and other guests on the second floor of the new building.
With decorative brick and lighting fixtures, the plant has a decidedly less industrial-looking presence overlooking Abingdon Road.
Craig noted that Thursday morning the board of estimates approved another 5 million gallons through Baltimore City, bringing the plant's capacity to 25 million gallons daily.
The county executive said he is dedicated to providing "good, adequate, reliable drinking water for everyone that lives here."
The expansion was originally approved in 2005 and construction began in 2009, with an extensive process that included a new tap into Baltimore City's 108-inch wide raw water line, a 115-inch wide tunnel under I-95 for transmission mains, an upgrade to a sewer along the Bynum Run Interceptor, a new raw water screening process, two million-gallon emergency lagoons with a pumping station and an upgraded security system, according to a press release.
The project will help the county provide 1.5 million gallons of back-up water for Aberdeen Proving Ground during emergency drought conditions, and partial water capacity to the city of Aberdeen, the Maryland American Water company and Greenridge Utilities Inc., which serve the town of Bel Air and the Greenridge community, respectively.
Craig said he hopes the plant would eventually provide up to 40 million gallons.
"There's always issues that have to be considered," he added. "This helped us resolve issues with the Aberdeen Proving Ground, this helped us resolve issues with the city of Aberdeen that had to be resolved."
Craig also said he hoped to work toward unified water production in Harford County.
He added BRAC would not have happened as readily as it did if Harford County had not been able to sell water to Aberdeen.
More than 500 people and 500,000 staff hours were involved in the massive project.
The event was held just before public works director Bob Cooper's last day with the county.
"It is really fitting that this is happening today, with my last day being tomorrow," Cooper told the crowd.
He thanked the Spencer family, from whom the land was purchased, for working with the county, jokingly explaining: "We call it Mount Spencer out there."
Cooper noted the project did create some complications, as the county had to work with the Maryland Department of the Environment to cap a rubblefill on the site.
"We knew that going into the project, and we knew that having this property was going to be the answer to our long-term [problems]," he said.
County spokesman Bob Thomas thanked Craig for his leadership and persistence with the project.
"This was not an easy project at all, and the county executive saw it as a high priority," Thomas said.
Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, who attended along with Councilmen Joe Woods and Chad Shrodes, commented on the improved appearance of the building.
"This is an impact on the surrounding community," Lisanti said, adding the early designs did not look as nice. "Even that little touch made a big difference."
Aberdeen Mayor Mike Bennett attended with City Manager Doug Miller. Bennett recalled when he took office in 2005, the city was faced with a crisis of water and worried it would not be able to meet the demands of BRAC.
"After many, many, many hours of wrangling and talking, David [Craig] and I, along with our manager Doug Miller, knew what the right thing to do was," Bennett said. "We just had to get people on board."
Bennett said he and Miller were at the Maryland Municipal League convention in Ocean City and "zipped" back to Harford County for the ribbon-cutting.
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"This is going to help us to continue to move forward very greatly in the city of Aberdeen and Harford County," he said, adding it would also continue keeping Harford County the "epicenter of things going on in the state of Maryland."