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Clear Spring faces fix-up of reservoir

March 08, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

CLEAR SPRING - Clear Spring must upgrade its reservoir after failing state water quality tests, a report from the Maryland Department of the Environment says.

The town has 60 days to submit a plan and 18 months to meet treatment requirements that would bring it into compliance with the state Surface Water Treatment Rule.

The MDE rule enforces the federal Environmental Protection Agency's regulations on infiltration of groundwater by surface water, which could lead to contamination of drinking water, Terry Ugiansky of the MDE's engineering and technical division told town officials and county water and sewer representatives Tuesday.

Nearly 2,000 people use water from Clear Spring's reservoir.

"I think this is the most wonderful opportunity to rebuild the water system to give town residents the high quality of water they deserve," said Councilman William Albowicz.

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Scientists with the MDE's water supply program in 1998 tested water from the town's four wells and two water sources, the Upper and Lower Springs. They found low concentrations of total and fecal coliform and "extremely high turbidity" in the wells. New well seals installed in August 1999 might have remedied the bacteria problem, the report says.

Fecal coliform is from warm-blooded animal waste. Total coliform also can include waste from plant material or soil.

Testing also showed both springs to be under the direct influence of surface water, the report says.

Councilman Gary Grove argued the findings.

"Groundwater's groundwater and it's going to have surface water in it somewhere along the line," he said.

No one has ever gotten sick from water from the town's reservoir, which has been in use since 1936, Albowicz said.

Ugiansky said infiltration can lead to increased risk of contaminants associated with gastrointestinal diseases and distress.

The town can either install a costly water filtration and disinfection system or clean and rehabilitate the spring boxes to prevent direct surface infiltration, the report says.

The springs would then be re-tested.

Ugiansky suggested the town first inspect the springs and try to avoid filtration by installing a large water storage tank and using more disinfection.

The town must post a public notice within 60 days if it decides not to abandon the problematic water sources, Ugiansky said.

The town can be fined up to $25,000 a day for noncompliance after the deadline, said Bill Dean, superintendent of water and sewer operations for Washington County.

Dean and Councilwoman Julie Albowicz are drafting a plan that proposes getting rid of the Lower Spring and rebuilding the Upper Spring with filtration, Bill Albowicz said.

Under the proposal, one well would be permanently capped, and the MDE would check the condition of the remaining wells' water and interiors, he said. If the problem is with the old well cases, the casings will be modernized, he said.

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