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County supports Md. limits

August 05, 1999

Parris GlendeningBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS




Public water systems in Washington County have adequate water supplies, but officials say they support mandatory water restrictions imposed Wednesday by Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening.

"The Potomac (River) is flowing lower that normal, of course, but it has not been a problem," said Hagerstown Water Department Manager Gene V. Walzl.

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Since the city draws water from the Potomac River to serve its 75,000 water customers, the supply is adequate, Walzl said.

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Because the Potomac's water level is lower than normal, the water does contain a higher concentration of organic material, however, Walzl said.

"Water becomes a little more stagnant than it normally is," he said.

To combat the situation, Walzl said the city has added more chemicals to the water and has monitored water quality more closely.

"In general, we're in pretty decent shape," said Washington County Water and Sewer Director Gregory Murray.

Murray said the county serves about 8,500 water users, including those in Clear Spring, which buys its water from the county.

The county earlier had issued water restrictions in the Highfield and Mount Aetna areas, but Murray said the county is in the process of bringing backup water supplies online.

Boonsboro, which in the past has been one of the first area towns to be forced to impose water-use restrictions, is in good shape this year, according to Town Manager Jake Jones.

"We're holding our own. Our reservoir stays pretty much full," Jones said.

Jones said the town has stayed in good shape by repairing leaks and digging a new well in Shafer Memorial Park.

The well, which went into use last month, draws 200 gallons a minute, town officials said Monday.

Despite the fact that public water systems in the county seem to be bearing up under the drought, officials said they have already begun taking steps to conserve water.

For instance, Walzl said the City of Hagerstown suspended its hydrant flushing program last week.

Hagerstown Public Works Manager Doug Stull said the city had already cut back on water use before Wednesday.

If the drought continues, Stull said he fears dozens of plants and flowers throughout the city will die. The budget each year contains money sufficient to replace plants in a normal year.

"But this isn't a normal year," he said. "This is the driest I've seen in many, many years."

For the first time in memory, the city has had to place sandbags in front of the spillways at City Park's spring-fed lake because water was running out of the lake faster than it was running in, Stull said.

Under Glendening's executive order, public pools like the city's Potterfield pool will be able to add water, but private pool owners will not.

"A public pool is a better utilization of water than a private pool because it serves more people," Stull said.

Stull said the city has cut back on watering at Municipal Golf Course. He said maintenance workers water each green for an hour rather than two hours and have stopped watering the tees.

Black Rock Golf Course Superintendent John Kain said the course has not needed to be watered thanks to last weekend's rainfall. But he said the course is stressed by the drought.

"We will comply with whatever the restrictions are," said Kain.

The Washington County Recreation and Parks Department took steps more than a month ago to cut down on water use.

"We've been using very little since the dry weather set in," said Ronald Kidd, the department's director. "We haven't even been watering our ball fields Some of our young trees, which we usually water, we haven't because of the drought."

Kidd said the county probably would water trees if it were necessary to keep them alive, but flowers are another story.

"A lot of them are dead because we haven't been watering them," he said.

The Washington County school system also has taken measures to conserve water.

When Glendening asked last week for voluntary compliance, the school system stopped watering its practice fields, schools spokeswoman Donna Messina said.

Messina said the school system's transportation department closed its washing bays last week.

In addition, the system has ordered school buses to be thoroughly swept and windows to be washed with a glass cleaner instead of with water.

"We have tried to go the extra mile even before the governor issued the mandatory ban," she said. "We are fortunate that we don't have 20,000 students using the rest rooms at this time."

In light of the mandatory restrictions announced Wednesday, the school system likely will stop watering game fields as well, officials said.

Eugene "Yogi" Martin, who supervises athletics for the Washington County Board of Education, said the measures could have a dramatic impact on the quality of the school system's 41 practice areas and seven game fields if rainfall does not increase.

"They'll be playable. But they're probably not going to be as attractive as they normally are," he said.

Hancock Town Manager Louis Close said the town has cut back on water use but not on any regular schedule.

"We haven't been watering our trees any because of the dryness," he said. "It stands to reason you don't waste water. It's just common sense."

Close said getting residents to conserve water has not been a problem, especially since the town installed water meters last year.

"I haven't seen any lawn watering or washing of cars," he said. "Most people aren't using water because they don't want to spend the money."

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