Price tag: $480,000

July 15, 1997

Price tag: $480,000

County's cost of aiding 29 homes southeast of Sharpsburg seen as risk of rural sprawl


Staff Writer

Replacing an inadequate rural water system that supplies 29 homes will cost Washington County about $480,000, officials said Tuesday.

The Elk Ridge subdivision off Chestnut Grove Road southeast of Sharpsburg was built in the 1940s with a private water system, said Water and Sewer Director Greg Murray.

The Washington County Sanitary District took over the system in the 1980s after the owners of the system couldn't make loan payments to the federal government, Murray said.


County Commissioner James R. Wade said he didn't want to hear Elk Ridge customers complain about future rate hikes, because 1,159 other county water customers and county taxpayers will be subsidizing the $17,000 per home cost of the new system.

Wade said the Elk Ridge situation is a prime example of the risks of rural sprawl. The commissioners should consider changing the Agricultural zoning classification to make it more restrictive to prevent future problems in rural areas, he said.

"This board over the past two years has shirked its responsibility to take a look at Agricultural zoning," Wade said.

"We ought to just call it HD, or housing development waiting to happen," Wade said.

The county has budgeted $82,269 for a new water treatment plant, $194,200 for a reservoir and $173,100 for a new distribution system, including water meters. The county commissioners also awarded a $30,950 design contract to John E. Harms Jr. and Associates Inc. of Frederick, Md.

Murray said the high costs are associated with low-density rural development. Water and sewer systems in Sandy Hook cost $35,000 per customer, but grants picked up most of the tab, he said.

Murray said the county is exploring the possibility of obtaining grant funding for the Elk Ridge project.

The new system will eliminate several problems for Elk Ridge customers, Murray said. The ground under the subdivision produces only small amounts of low-quality water, he said. Four existing wells generate a combined six to 11 gallons per minute with little reserve capacity.

A new well under construction about 400 feet from the subdivision should generate about 65 gallons per minute. A new reservoir would provide capacity in case of fire or ruptures in the lines, Murray said.

Also, the aging water lines are too shallow, causing pipe ruptures in the winter.

The homes originally were intended to be summer homes and the water lines were drained during the winter months to prevent ruptures, Murray said.

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