YMCA will try new approach to clear bacteria-plagued water system


WESTMINSTER -- The Carroll County YMCA has been unable to correct a bacteria problem in its water system discovered a month ago by the county Health Department.

Inspectors discovered traces of bacteria during routine water tests July 21. The system was treated with chlorine the next day. Inspectors retested four different taps at the Sykesville Road facility earlier this month and forwarded samples to the Maryland State Lab in Baltimore.

"Results of a second set of tests show the drinking water continues to be unsatisfactory," said Charles Zeleski, assistant director of Environmental Health for the Carroll County Health Department. "The YMCA has elected to provide treatment to the system."

Once that treatment is installed and operating properly, he said, the department will retest.

"Essentially, the proper treatment system will make the drinking water safe," he said.

The YMCA, which opened June 1 on Sykesville Road, has been buying bottled drinking water for members since the initial test showed bacteria. Health Department officials said bathing and swimming at the new $3.2 million building is safe and poses no health threat.

"We want to assure everyone that the family YMCA is a safe place to come," said David Stevenson, the YMCA's executive director.

"We are still trying to get the system squared away. We may rechlorinate completely or purchase a standard treatment system."

He said he had discussed both chlorinating and ultraviolet light systems with several area vendors and hopes to make a final decision soon. The facility will house a large day-care program next month.

"We are trying to figure out which system will be best for us," he said. "It can be incredibly expensive, with costs ranging from $1,500 to $15,000."

In a letter to members, dated the day of the initial test, Mr. Stevenson said the organization had a contract with a state-approved water analysis company, which tests the building's water supply regularly. All analyses from that company have been negative, he said.

The cost of about 20 gallons of bottled water is running between $100 and $200 per week, he said.

"We have had no complaints from members about the bottled water," he said. "They love it and I'm a little afraid of complaints when we return to our own system."

Since the planning stages, water has been an issue for the facility. In 1988, planners had asked Westminster City Council to extend utility service to the 10-acre site.

The council denied that request and a subsequent appeal, saying that the property is outside the city's planned service area. Contractors opted for a private well and septic system.

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