Carroll County negotiating to increase water supply


County officials are negotiating with the state and the city of Baltimore to increase the water supply to the Freedom Area, Carroll's most populous region.

To proceed with a $5 million expansion to the Freedom Water Treatment Plant, the county would need about 2 more acres along Liberty Reservoir. Once the addition is completed, the plant could process another 2 million gallons a day from the reservoir. The construction and increased allocation need approval from Baltimore, which owns the water and the surrounding property.

"We can do a 2-acre expansion with little impact," Gary Horst, county director of enterprise and recreation services, said in a meeting with county commissioners yesterday. "But any improvement has to be approved by the city."

Horst has forwarded to Baltimore an environmental assessment of the impact of the construction on city land and the watershed.

Carroll pays the city about $125,000 annually for its daily water allocation, now set at a maximum 3 million gallons. Officials expect that the city would assess an additional premium for an increase in the allocation, but are unsure how much that would be. Carroll has a long-term lease for the water and the land, an agreement officials would like to modify before putting about $5 million into the 22-year-old plant.

"It is to everyone's advantage to move negotiations along at a reasonably fast pace, before the city has a whole new administration and a new learning process has to begin," said J. Michael Evans, county director of public works.

Horst said Carroll officials hope to continue discussions that began last summer with city Public Works Director George G. Balog.

"Balog also wants some statement about the ultimate growth in the Freedom Area," he said. "He is attuned to what is going on here."

The Carroll planning commission has recommended limiting growth in Freedom for at least six years, until schools, roads and utilities can meet the demands of a population that exceeds 28,000.

In another effort to increase its water supply, the county is drilling several wells on state-owned land near Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville. The wells are expected to supply about 2 million gallons a day -- "enough to meet peak demands for the next five years," said Evans.

The wells are an alternative to building a second water treatment plant, once planned for Piney Run Reservoir. The $16 million price tag and residents' opposition forced the county to scrap the construction project.

"We have been quite successful in finding ground water at a moderate cost around Springfield," said Horst.

The county must renegotiate its use and allocation agreement with the state. In 1992, Carroll promised the state 1 million gallons a day to be processed at a plant that will not be built. State users, which include Springfield, need 400,000 gallons daily.

"Now that Piney Run is out of the picture, we need to know how much and when the state will need 1 million gallons a day," said Horst.

The state Board of Public Works approved Carroll's plans for water lines and a small treatment building on the hospital grounds last year.

However, before the agreement is signed, Carroll must determine how much water it will take from the wells and where it will be going.

The state also is asking if the plans match the governor's Smart Growth legislation to control sprawl and direct development to existing communities.

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