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Taneytown limits water use to help ease strain on wells

The mayor of Taneytown imposed water restrictions yesterday -- banning outdoor uses such as filling pools, washing cars and watering lawns -- after a warning that all five of the town's wells have been working overtime and that the equipment could fail.

Mayor W. Robert Flickinger issued the executive order after learning Wednesday that the local Public Works Department and the Maryland Department of the Environment had recommended the restrictions.

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"We have five wells that have been running 24 hours a day, seven days a week" except for brief shut-offs, City Manager Gary W. Hardman said yesterday. From October until last week, the wells had been shut off part of each day.

Water pressure has dropped, but no residents have called to report it, Hardman said. "If we get a water main break or a fire, we could be in trouble," he said.

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The water problems began when the town shut down its most productive well more than six months ago.

Carbon filters are being installed at well No. 13, where tests last fall found the level of a solvent to be above the federal standard for drinking water.

Tetrachloroethene, also known as tetrachloroethylene and perchloroethylene, was found in the water and is a potential carcinogen that can cause liver and kidney damage in mice and rats, according to an MDE spokesman.

Work on removing the solvent is expected to be completed by June 21, Hardman said. But he told City Council that it will be at least a week after that before tests are completed to the satisfaction of the MDE.

When back in service, he said, the well would run at 120 gallons a minute, less than half its capacity. It probably won't be back at full capacity for several years.

Hardman said the city hopes to find a new water supply when it begins drilling test wells, possibly as soon as today.

The order restricting water use includes exceptions for motor vehicle dealers and commercial car washes, for two hours in the evening for watering new lawns that were planted before the restrictions and for hand-watering of gardens and shrubs by bucket or hose.

The order requires the police to give warnings to violators through June 20. Beginning June 21, citations will be issued, with $50 fines for a first offense and $100 for repeat offenses.

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The cost of removing the solvent from the well water is being paid by ESAB, an international welding and cutting-products corporation in Hanover, Pa. ESAB acquired the company -- where the solvent was used -- that once leased land near the well. The corporation is paying about $60,000 for the cleanup without admitting liability, an ESAB official said.

In addition to the idling of its best well, the city is also reeling from a report by an MDE hydrogeologist that said it has far less water underground than previous studies indicated.

The MDE report said ground water is insufficient to serve housing units that have been approved.

In the meantime, Carroll County officials said, they will not approve record plats or site plans for development in Taneytown. They met with state, county and city officials, and developers last week.

Officials said MDE might forbid the issuing of building permits by the county Health Department's director of environmental health. No decision had been made as of yesterday, an MDE spokesman said.

Flickinger and other officials have questioned the MDE study of its potential water supply and the state's methods of allocating the amount of water that the municipalities can pump.

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Taneytown has its own hydrogeologist, and the builders in Taneytown have had water analyses. Hardman and others have said the state's analysis is conservative.

After the meeting last week, two builders said they were confident that the problem would be resolved.

One project, the Carroll Vista adult community, has about 500 units planned, and amenities such as sidewalks and service lines have been completed.


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