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When residents of the Forest Lake and Marywood communities north of Bel Air head for showers in the morning, they're never sure if they'll experience one of the ultimate morning inconveniences: little or no water pressure.

But the 5,000 residents affected by the low water pressure in the area can take solace in the knowledge that help appears to be on the way.

The County Council voted 7-0 to amend the county's master water and sewer plan to include a proposal by the county Department of Public Works for a new $2.1 million storage tank and water line on the Route 1 bypass near the county Detention Center this year. The project, which should be completed in about a year, should rectify the water pressure problem in the area, say public works administrators.

The project will be paid for with money already set aside for a tank and water pumping station, which boosts pressure in pipes moving water from one elevation to another, that was to be located near the Country Walk development in Abingdon. DPW has decided to delay the Country Walk project near Route 24 and Wheel Road for two more years in favor of building the storage tank at the Route 1 bypass next year.

"The Route 1 station would be needed in two years even with Country Walk," said Jerald Wheeler, deputy director of the Department of Public Works. "So we decided to build it now out of consideration for the community."

DPW was also given approval by the council to improve the Preston Manor water pumping station located along Route 24 at Wheel Road. The work will allow the station to pump 6 million gallons of water a day instead of the 3 million gallons a day it produces now.

"Peak demand begins about 5 a.m., when people get up and begin taking showers, cooking and washing. In those areas north of Bel Air, some days they'd get up in the morning and have no water pressure," said Wheeler.

"For the last two summers we've been running with Army surplus pumps on Route 924 and Abingdon Road to try to keep the water flowing north of Bel Air."

The emergency pumps were supposed to make the water flow faster to keep up with the demand for water on hot summer days, Wheeler said.

The best range for water pressure is between 20 and 50 pounds per square inch. Water pressure in the affected communities north of Bel Air has been measured as low as 15 psi, just enough to get a trickle of water through a faucet, said Wheeler.

"But you can only push water so far, and you can only push so much water through a pipe before you stress it and break it," Wheeler said.

"Improvements at Preston Manor mean the water pumping station can move more water at a higher pressure to the community. The tank allows for water to be stored closer to where it's used, so that the morning surges and evening surges are satisfied by water in the neighborhood rather than pumping it in from a distance."

The Route 1 storage tank project is the latest addition to the county's $30 million emergency water improvement plan.

The plan calls for spending $13.4 million on water and sewer line improvement projects in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 1991.

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