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Would-be homebuyers must be warned on wells

October 03, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday moved a step closer to enacting a one-year moratorium on large rural developments that would depend on wells for water. As part of that action, the commissioners should make it clear that it's not the county's responsibility to guarantee that a well won't go dry.

Is there really a problem? Laura Bucher, head of environmental health for the Washington County Health Department, reported that as of Sept. 9, this year the county has seen 117 replacement wells dug, with an average depth of 325 feet.

And Don Schwartz, a Maryland Agricultural Extension Agent who is also the county's drought coordinator, said that for the last two years there's been no significant recharge of groundwater resources. In March, Extension Agent Jeff Semler said it would take four years of above-average rainfall to make up the deficit.

Because of the county's limestone geology, which resembles a vast underground honeycomb, new wells can affect the flow rate of existing ones, forcing long-time residents to dig replacement wells.

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When discussing the proposed moratorium Tuesday, Commissioners Bert Iseminger and Greg Snook said they feared that without the moratorium, the cost of serving rural developments with sewer and water would fall on the county and its existing taxpayers.

Any proposal for that kind of aid should be strongly resisted. Those who've had replacement wells dug haven't gotten county assistance, so why should those who knowingly purchase new homes with wells get it?

Those who develop in the Urban Growth or Town Growth areas would be exempt from the moratorium, as would those developing six or fewer rural lots, which provides some latitude. For everyone else, the choices will be: Wait for rain or try to figure out how to bring municipal water to rural areas the state government's "Smart Growth" officials say shouldn't be developed - and aren't eligible for state aid.

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