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Closed wells may restrict watering


With two of Mount Airy's municipal wells shut down after chemical contamination was found, the town may soon have to ban the watering of lawns and shrubs, said R. Delaine Hobbs, town council president, at last night's council meeting.

"People are watering around the clock, unnecessarily," said Mr. Hobbs, who called for immediate voluntary restrictions on watering.

Water from one well was found to contain 12.5 parts per billion of trichloroethylene, TCE, a chemical solvent or degreaser.

However, Mr. Hobbs said, the water from the contaminated well is mixed in the town's system with cleaner water from another well. Mixing reduces the contamination to about 4.9 parts per billion, he said, and makes the water safe to drink.

"What comes out of the tap is well less [contaminated] than that," he said.

Mr. Hobbs said newspaper accounts of the problem had alarmed residents unnecessarily.

"The notoriety in the newspapers has excited some ladies that are pregnant and some others," he said.

Mr. Hobbs said the two wells would remain shut down "for the time being."

Although the water was not in violation of drinking water standards, he said, it is better not to use the wells while residents are upset.

He said he is seeking ways to remove the chemicals from the water.

A carbon-filter system could cost $20,000 plus maintenance, he said. The town is still seeking prices on air-filtration systems, he said.

The town council voted last night to authorize the mayor to move ahead with bidding on a project to build a new municipal well as soon as the town has state permits.

Also on last night's agenda, representatives of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. were scheduled to make a presentation to the council.

The firm is seeking a natural gas franchise in the Mount Airy area, said Frank R. Wanken, corporate affairs representative with BG&E.;

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