Maryland Environmental Services has asked Carroll officials for detailed information about test wells explored and later abandoned on the campus of Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.
"This is an area short of water, to say the least," said Michael D. Wojton, MES program director. "This data will help us round out the entire picture. The county and state have to figure out a way to supply water to South Carroll."
South Carroll, home to about 30,000 residents, suffers from seasonal water shortages. The county had considered the wells as an option to augment the water supply but later scrapped the plan in favor of a $16 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Lake in Sykesville.
"Typically, one of the most important things about wells is to see what they can do under drought conditions," Wojton said. "This is the best time to get yield data, information that is essential to the process of planning."
Many people, including Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, consider the wells an excellent short-term solution to the water problems. The commissioners recently stopped residential construction in South Carroll - except for homes that have received building permits - until more water becomes available.
With ground-water levels at their lowest in years, the state agency will test the proposed wells for yield and compare the results with county data. County tests, performed about two years ago, put the yield at about 100,000 gallons per day for each well.
The state has asked for information on the depth, yield and water quality of each well - information that the county commissioners agreed yesterday to forward to MES. The county spent about $75,000 two years ago locating three wells on the hospital property and testing a fourth existing well.
"We found each well would be a satisfactory source of water," said Frank Schaeffer, deputy director of Carroll's Department of Public Works. "We have all the data which we gathered during the drilling."
Officials researched the possibility of drilling a series of wells on the hospital property in an effort to augment the water supply in South Carroll. The public water system supplies nearly 20,000 residents of Eldersburg and Sykesville with water drawn from Liberty Reservoir and treated at the county's plant there. During prolonged hot and dry spells, the system often is strained.
With the additional water from the proposed wells, the county could meet the immediate needs of South Carroll, its most populous area. Two test wells are between Route 32 and Buttercup Road; a third lies at the southeastern edge of the hospital campus near Slacks Road. The county also will provide its test data from an existing well, in the middle of the hospital campus.
Carroll proceeded with the construction of one well on property adjacent to the hospital, on land owned by Fairhaven Retirement Community. The Fairhaven well came on line a year ago and can deliver as much as 300,000 gallons a day into the public water system.
Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier are moving forward with plans to build the Piney Run plant, but that plan has not received state approval and has met with strong opposition from residents. Additional water from wells would hinder efforts to obtain a construction permit for the plant, Dell and Frazier have said.
Gouge repeatedly has asked her colleagues to reconsider the wells as an option until the plant can begin operating. Under optimum conditions, the new plant will not open for at least three years.
A year ago, the Maryland Department of the Environment also asked that Carroll drill the wells to provide an immediately available water supply for South Carroll. Wells would give South Carroll a stable, long-term water supply at reasonable costs, state officials said.