Residents fight plan to abandon their wells


The county's plan to construct a water line along Hollenberry and Obrecht roads in Sykesville has angered several residents who will have to abandon wells and pay the costs to hook into the public system.

The water line will be built in conjunction with the $14 million treatment plant at Piney Run Reservoir, a project the county believes will alleviate persistent water shortages in South Carroll.

When the water main is complete, county code requires that "every abutting property owner, after due notice, shall make a connection." The county is negotiating with residents along those roads for rights of way that would allow for wider roads and construction of the pipeline.

The county charges residents a $4,725 fee to connect to the public water system. The homeowner must also bear the cost of running a line from the main to the residence. Residents will pay a phased-in utility maintenance fee beginning July 1 for many of the 7,000 homes and businesses in South Carroll.

Ken and Elaine Boyd of Beachmont Estates have asked why they should shut off a reliable well and pay more than $5,000 in hook-up costs.

"We have a beautiful well. Nothing is wrong with it," she said. "Suppose we don't want to hook up? What do I do with my well?"

Ken Boyd said that it makes no sense to cap a working well in an area that suffers from seasonal water shortages. During three of the past four summers, the county had to impose bans on outdoor water use throughout South Carroll.

"I have a well that has worked fine for eight years, and the county is going to make me cap it off," he said. "I am not against progress or the new pipeline, but I am unhappy with this mandatory hookup."

Nearly 30 years ago, when the county built Freedom Water Treatment Plant at Liberty Reservoir, hundreds of Eldersburg residents were required to cap their wells and hook into the new system. They were promised lower costs and better water quality. Today many pay as much as $120 a quarter for water, and the treatment process has been blamed for pipe corrosion problems throughout the system.

"I could have put three new wells in at my house for all the money public water has cost me," said Charles Fairbank, who has lived in Carroll Highlands since 1964. "I had to hook into the system when I had a perfectly good well."

To keep residents apprised of the pipe and road project, county officials mailed invitations to 45 homeowners who would be the most immediately affected by the new line. About 10 attended an April 12 session, a disappointing turnout, said Doug Myers, county director of public works.

"For many, it was the first time they had heard about Piney Run," Myers said. "If we start putting a pipe in the ground near these homes, I will have many calling to say they were never notified. We are trying to be upfront and let people know what is going on."

Myers discussed plans to lay a 16-inch pipeline line from the new treatment plant down Hollenberry Road for 2,400 feet and along 2,050 feet of Obrecht Road to an existing water main.

Officials are negotiating for easements with nine property owners along Hollenberry Road so the road can be straightened and widened to 16 feet. When the plant is built, traffic should be minimal, officials say, and the county will pave Hollenberry, which is a gravel road. The pipe and paving project will cost about $700,000.

"We cannot do anything until we have acquired rights-of-way from these homeowners, said Myers. "It all stems from that."

The new plant, which faced strident opposition from many residents, could be in operation by 2004.

"This can affect many more people who all have concerns," said Anne Dallam of Beachmont Drive. "How did we get to this point? The county has made a decision to use the lake without our support."

Residents fear the plant will have an adverse impact on the lake, which has become a recreation spot, and the surrounding ecosystem.

"We understand your concerns," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "Any official would be stupid to do anything to impair recreation at the lake."

Residents also fear that the plant would serve future development and be of little benefit to those living in South Carroll.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the Piney Run project as soon as their schedule allows. They also plan to mail South Carroll residents brochures detailing the history of Piney Run Reservoir with answers to the most frequently asked questions.

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