Piney Run leaflet delayed

Distribution of a brochure detailing the rationale for constructing a $13 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir in Sykesville has been delayed so Carroll County Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge can check its accuracy.

She disputes claims that the plant will pay for itself within 10 years, and that it will easily meet South Carroll's demands for water during droughts, which have occurred three of the past four summers.


"I have questions that it will be so much cheaper in the long run to build Piney Run," Gouge said yesterday. "Water levels in dry seasons could be a real problem."

Once it is approved, the brochure will be mailed to 7,200 South Carroll water customers, who have endured water shortages during those droughts.


Rather than tap Piney Run, Gouge favors expanding Carroll's existing water treatment plant at Liberty Reservoir, but she was outvoted in July, 2-1, by Commissioners Robin Bartlett Frazier and Donald I. Dell.

"I know the decision has been made, but we need to consider the long term," Gouge said.

The brochure, written in a question-answer format, outlines the need for a plant at Piney Run. Frazier said she wants to help residents understand that the proposed plant and the daily use of water would not have an adverse effect on recreation at Piney Run Park, a favorite spot for boaters, anglers and nature enthusiasts.

"I want this to be understandable," Frazier said.

When Gouge learned of the brochure, she said she would not sign it. The brochure's design -- commissioners' documents bear the signatures of all three board members -- gives her no such opportunity.

"It has been put together so that no signatures are needed," Gouge said yesterday.

Gouge reiterated her concern that constructing the Piney Run treatment plant is costly and unnecessary. She said a new high-yield well will allay seasonal water shortages in South Carroll. And, she said, the county also is looking at other well sites on state-owned property at Springfield Hospital Center to supplement the supply.

"Ground water is far cheaper to treat than reservoir water," Gouge said.


With the wells on line, Gouge said, she sees no need for a second plant, "unless you are planning to build a lot more in South Carroll."

Frazier insisted that the Piney Run plant is vital to growth that is planned, not for increases.

"This is a project that has come from current zoning," Frazier said. "In the long run, Piney Run is cheaper. The wells are not enough to provide for long-term needs."

The new plant could treat up to 3 million gallons a day, the same capacity as the existing plant at Liberty Reservoir. During dry spells, the county would decrease the draw from Piney Run Reservoir to 1 million gallons and rely more on water from Liberty, a 45 billion-gallon lake owned by Baltimore City.

But until Carroll reaffirms a longstanding watershed protection agreement, the city will not allow the county to increase its daily draw from Liberty Reservoir.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley "said we must sign the agreement as it is written," Gouge said. "If we don't renew the agreement with the city, are they going to let us have more water?"


The county recently received a reply to its letter to O'Malley requesting changes to the agreement. O'Malley reiterated the city's insistence on a commitment to the agreement as it is written.

"The protection of the water supply for 1.8 million consumers must be weighed," O'Malley wrote to the commissioners Feb. 7.

Carroll officials also have written to executives in Harford, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties about the proposed changes. Only O'Malley has replied.

Carroll has no plans to draw more water from Liberty Reservoir, Frazier said. Two plants give the county flexibility, stability and a contingency in case of emergency, she said.

Frazier said every effort was made to create an accurate and readable brochure. She asked Gouge to address any items she feels are not factual.

The county plans to print 10,000 copies of the brochure at a cost of about $3,300. Copies also will be available at libraries and community centers.


Gouge asked again yesterday for a public hearing to allow residents to air their concerns about the new plant.

"We won't get 7,200 people at a public hearing," said Frazier.

The benefit of the brochure is that it can spread information to a larger population than a public hearing, said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.

Dell wants the information, which he called "the actual facts," mailed as soon as possible.

"If we are going to use this, the sooner we do, the better," Dell said. "It does not mean there won't be any more controversy as we proceed."