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City may send water to Frederick

September 26, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The City of Hagerstown might give or sell treated city water to Frederick to help it through a water shortage, Hagerstown officials said Wednesday.

Frederick will entertain any offer of help, spokeswoman Nancy Gregg Poss said.

"It is wonderful that we see communities and other municipalities coming together to try to help each other out during this record-breaking drought situation," she said.

Poss said Harrisburg, Pa., also has offered to sell water to Frederick.

Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said he believed the water should be given to Frederick at no charge.

When the city's water plant had to be shut down about six years ago, Frederick County and the town of Smithsburg provided free water, Breichner said.

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He said he doesn't think it would be appropriate to charge Frederick while that city is facing a severe water shortage. But he said he would ask the Hagerstown City Council if it agreed before making an offer.

When Briechner mentioned the possibility at Tuesday's council meeting, Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire said the city should sell the water, not give it away.

Before extending any offer, Hagerstown staff will ensure that providing water to another municipality would not result in water shortage problems for Hagerstown, Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said.

If the city can help Frederick without putting Hagerstown water customers at risk, it should do so, Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said.

"It would be criminal if we did not do what we can," Hendershot said.

Frederick would be responsible for shipping any water it received from Hagerstown, Zimmerman said.

The amount of water that could be sold to Frederick and the price, if it is sold, have not been determined, Zimmerman said.

Water Department Manager Gene Walzl said he thinks the city could provide Frederick with about 1 million gallons a day and still comfortably meet Hagerstown customers' average demand of about 10.5 million gallons a day.

The Potomac River feeds Hagerstown's main water plant near Williamsport. While the river's level has been low, it is not at a critical point, Walzl said.

Frederick, a city of 53,000, is suffering from a long-term drought affecting much of the Northeast and from rapid growth that boosted its population by 31 percent in the 1990s.

On Tuesday, the state agreed to let Frederick use a hurriedly dug well to supplement a water supply that has run dangerously short.

The temporary permit from the Department of the Environment is for an average of 700,000 gallons a day, or about 11 percent of the 6.5 million gallons the city needs. The permit is good for three months, until Christmas Eve.

Frederick Mayor Jennifer Dougherty said the new water source would help extend the life of the city's reservoirs, which were down to about a 30-day supply, but she warned it would not cure the water crunch that has halted new development in Maryland's second-largest city for the past 18 months.

Also Tuesday, state environmental regulators tentatively agreed to relax a rule governing the amount of water that must be released from one of the city's reservoirs, Lake Linganore, to maintain aquatic life in Linganore Creek.

Poss said Frederick officials hope that Tuesday's actions, along with more fall rain, will let the city get the upper hand on the water situation for the first time this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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