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County's water watchers

December 02, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Trying to revamp one aging sewer system is difficult enough, but planning changes for multiple water and sewer systems while weighing costs and development pressures could be a dizzying prospect.

That, however, is what a newly formed group plans to do.

"I can't think of any better time," Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said Wednesday. "There's certainly a lot of things going on with water and sewer in the county."

Friday will be the first meeting of the Washington County Water and Sewer Infrastructure Commission, which Shank, fellow legislators and local officials helped to form.

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While the City of Hagerstown's aging sewage collection and treatment system is the county's largest that is facing problems, it isn't alone.

Other notable problems are in Funkstown - which is dealing with its own aging sewage treatment system - and Boonsboro, where some area residents' water wells have been found to be contaminated with bacteria.

Shank said that considering those problems along with the thousands of homes expected to be built in the next few years, he hopes the county will be ahead of the curve with the commission's work.

The commission was created through a state law passed during the last General Assembly session. The bill lays out several areas the commission must consider and then the panel will report back to the county delegation before June 30, 2006.

The commission must assess the county's existing capacity for water and sewer services; consider regulatory requirements; look at neighboring jurisdictions; look at ways to shave costs while meeting economic development needs; and factor in the county's town water and sewer systems.

Another factor the group will consider has raised some questions among Hagerstown officials: It will look at the possibility of merging city and county water and sewer authorities.

The commission also must develop a long-term plan to provide water and sewer service in the county for the next 50 years.

The chairman of the group is Merle Elliott, a Hagerstown resident who has been known for local fund-raising efforts.

The commission's voting members include: Malcolm Davis, Sandra Tillou, Doug Wright, David Barnhart, Bernie Moser, Bonnie Parks, Kristin Aleshire, Kurt Cushwa, Tim Henry and Martin Brubaker.

The other voting members are: Kevin Chambers, Dan Murphy, John Schnebly, Phil Kelly, Paul Crampton, Richard Reichenbaugh, Clarence Scheer, Clint Wiley, Peggy Bushey and Tory Van Reenen.

The nonvoting members are Washington County Department of Water Quality Director Greg Murray, Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner, and Del. LeRoy E. Myers (R-Washington).

The commission's first meeting will be Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Hagerstown Community College's College Center.

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