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Hope dims for test wells in Sykesville


Carroll County commissioners, who spent about $75,000 on testing, engineering and designing a series of wells at Springfield Hospital Center, have decided not to tap into wells there to augment the water supply in South Carroll, but will instead consider using the Moxley property well nearby.

A majority of the commissioners also reiterated their determination to ease water shortages by building a $14 million treatment plant on Piney Run Reservoir.

The commissioners voted 2-to-1 yesterday against building four wells at the Sykesville hospital but did not shut the door completely on the Moxley property at Route 32 and Raincliffe Road.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who cast the dissenting vote, argued that the wells would be a good interim source until the Piney Run plant comes on line - possibly by 2004. She urged her colleagues to pursue the Springfield wells for populous South Carroll, an area troubled with water shortages three of the past four summers.

"We need to actively work on the Springfield wells," she said. "They are a small expense and can be shut down later. This is water that is easily treatable."

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said, "It is good to have wells for backup, but the scope of the work left on the hospital wells is not what we are doing. We are building Piney Run."

The county hydrogeologist, Tom Devilbiss, has located at least three other potential well sites - the Moxley well and two others in Sykesville's Freedom Park, in addition to those on the hospital campus.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he will not abandon plans for the Piney Run plant but is willing to pursue the Moxley well, which he considers high yielding and easily treatable.

"We should be actively pursuing a permit for the Moxley well," Dell said. "There is no harm in applying for [an] appropriations permit."

The commissioners asked the public works staff to review plans for the Moxley well as soon as possible so that they can consider it as an option.

Before building a well or a plant, the state must issue water withdrawal and construction permits, a process that can take a year or longer. Water withdrawal approval often is based on need. If the county has enough water to serve South Carroll from wells and Liberty Reservoir, from which it can draw 3 million gallons a day, Frazier said she is concerned the state will not approve the permit for a plant at Piney Run.

Gouge, who has opposed the Piney Run plant since her colleagues voted to build it last year, argued that the project is "years down the road" and that the wells are needed immediately.

"It is extremely foolish for the commissioners not to pursue wells and have that water available," she said.

Carroll recently began operating the Fairhaven well, on Route 32 in Sykesville, a source that can pump up to 340,000 gallons of water daily to the public water system. With the Fairhaven well, county officials are certain they can handle peak demand.

The well gives the county a cushion and could supply about 750 more homes or their equivalent in commercial construction.

But if development continues in what is the county's fastest growth area, new construction could account for most of the Fairhaven well's capacity within four years, public works officials said.

"This is too close for comfort," said Gouge.

Frazier said, "That is why we have to get on the ball and build our plant."

At another meeting yesterday, Gouge and Frazier agreed to consider ordering an audit of the county water and sewer system. Dell did not attend the meeting.

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