New plant gives city water works a boost

December 09, 1997

New plant gives city water works a boost


Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - The new $4.7 million Edgemont Reservoir water treatment plant dedicated on Monday could serve as a backup should Hagerstown experience a water crisis as it did in 1996, officials said.

Had the plant been on line in January 1996 there would have been no need for a water-use ban and 10-day boil water advisory, said Gene Walzl, the city's water department manager.

Instead, customers would have had to restrict water use because the Edgemont plant can produce only about half of the 10 million gallons of water the city's roughly 75,000 water customers use daily, Walzl said.


The Edgemont plant south of Smithsburg off Crystal Falls Drive can produce 4.8 million gallons of treated water a day at peak capacity, but will average about 3 million gallons a day, Walzl said.

The city's main water source, the R.C. Willson Water Treatment Plant near Williamsport, can produce about 15 million gallons a day, but averages 10 million gallons, Walzl said. When improvements at the Willson plant are completed in about five years the plant will be able to produce up to 20 million gallons a day.

Water from the Edgemont Reservoir used during the January 1996 water crisis had to be boiled because it was untreated, Walzl said.

As a result of the crisis, the superintendent of the Willson plant was suspended without pay for 20 working days and reassigned temporarily to oversee construction of the Edgemont plant.

Dave Wagner has done well in that temporary job and is needed to finalize operations of the plant, said City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

The disciplinary action stemmed from flooding that began Jan. 19, 1996, coupled with a failed valve. The situation prompted Wagner to have workers shut down the Willson plant the next day. Pumps at the plant were damaged by flooding after the shutdown, officials have said.

Walzl also was suspended without pay for 10 days.

The new William M. Breichner Water Treatment Plant treats water from the Edgemont Reservoir, which can hold 90 million gallons, Walzl said. The reservoir is fed from the Warner Hollow and Raven Rock streams.

The plant can be operated remotely from the Willson plant, Walzl said. Officials are evaluating whether it will be necessary to hire personnel for the plant, he said.

Operators will be at the plant for maintenance and troubleshooting, Walzl said.

The treatment plant was built using funds from general obligation bonds and benefit charges, which are one-time fees to help pay for system upgrades, said Austin Abraham, the city's project coordinator.

The bonds will be paid off through user fees and benefit charges, he said. A rate increase in January 1997 was approved to help pay off system improvements, including construction of the new plant and improvements to the Willson plant near Williamsport.

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