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Water notice is issued for Clear Spring residents

January 24, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

CLEAR SPRING - Tests indicating that Clear Spring's groundwater supply is vulnerable to surface water contamination triggered a public notice on Friday.

"Three wells were determined to be under the direct influence of surface water by the Maryland Department of the Environment," according to the notice of violation, which was sent to The Herald-Mail. "As a result, these sources require additional treatment, such as filtration, or replacement with a protected water source."

Greg Murray, the director of the Washington County Department of Water Quality, said the notice is only a precaution and does not mean Clear Spring's water is unsafe.

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The potential for water problems is not new for the town, which is planning to build a filtration system and a 340,000-gallon treated water storage tank this year.

Arrow Consulting, a Hagerstown engineering firm, is drawing up plans that might go out to bid next month, according to the town.

The cost of the filtration project has been estimated at up to $1 million.

Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman Richard McIntire said the town was put on notice for its water system last April and was directed to put in a filtration system.

"The wells are prone to surface-water influences," he said. "It's not due to anything but the geology of the area."

McIntire said he didn't know if the MDE imposed a deadline for the filtration system.

Until then, whenever tests show potential problems with the groundwater supply, the town must announce that. McIntire said that's part of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which covers all public water systems.

Murray said groundwater systems are tested for surface water influence whenever at least a half-inch of rain falls. Tests are done on temperature; biological contamination; and turbidity, or cloudiness.

If surface water contaminated with the microorganisms Cryptosporidium and Giardia were to reach the groundwater supply, people who drink the water could get nausea and diarrhea.

Although there's no sign of contamination in Clear Spring's wells, people susceptible to gastrointestinal problems might want to take precautions and boil water or buy bottled water, Murray said.

The town's violation notice says people can find out more by calling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water hotline at 800-426-4791 or Murray at 240-313-2600.

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