Letters to the Editor

February 17, 2008

Water pressure isn't worth the cost

To the editor:

After reading the overwhelming reactions to Allegheny Power's bulb mailing, I couldn't help but compare it to a project in the City of Hagerstown. The only thing is, the impact from the city's plan will cost each of us far more than Allegheny's bulb program.

The city plans to pass out free water pressure. The only thing is, just like the bulbs, it really isn't free and not everyone needs or wants it. Your pressure is primarily based on how high the drinking water is stored above your home. In other words, the farther down the hill you live from the water tank, the more pressure you'll receive. The city is planning to build a new water tank that is taller than the old tank, and therefore will provide everyone with higher pressure. What's so bad about getting higher pressure?"

Higher pressure has a cost. The water has to be pumped "up the hill," and the further it has to be pumped, the more energy it requires. Guess who has to pay for that extra energy?


Some of you may say you want more water pressure, maybe because you don't have enough water coming out when you take a shower. This is a good way to understand the impact of higher water pressure. When you turn up the pressure, more water will come out, whether or not you have a low-flow shower head. Who pays for the extra water that comes out of the shower, the energy to heat the extra hot water and the extra water going into the sewer system?

Our water system leaks, but unlike the leaks many of us are familiar with where we see water running down the street and traffic tied up to make the repair, there are the thousands of leaks that are virtually undetectable and rather constant, that is, until the pressure to the leaks is increased. Just as with your shower, turning up the pressure to the leaks forces more water to come out. Who will pay for the increased leakage?

Is our drinking water an endless resource? No, and our water and sewer plants can only handle so much volume. When the treatment plant and system capacity volume runs out prematurely because of everyone using more water and sewer, and because of the leaks underground, who will pay to build a bigger plant and system?

The leakage in today's dollars, which never goes away, will cost us more than $4 million, and each customer will directly pay for the extra water and energy they individually use. The average residential customer could pay an additional $8 per year, not including the energy increase for heating hot water. You may say to yourself, I will simply change out my fixtures to the low-flow type. Remember, if the city wasn't raising the water pressure and you changed your fixture(s), you would actually reduce your current water and sewer bill. Also, this is not just a one-time increase; it will happen year after year because the pressure will never go back down.

The alternative is to build a shorter water tank that keeps the pressure the same and do selective pressure management for those who want or feel they need more pressure. The city water system has different "pressure zones" and these zones are separated by closed valves. With the turn of a valve, the city could convert most of the customers with lower pressure to higher pressure without having to increase the pressure to everyone.

So, Allegheny wanted to bill everyone a little under $12 for their bulbs; but the City expects us to pay for the $4 million of wasted water, plus $8 more a year forever. Which do you think is worse? If any of this seems a bit too technical, please ask a friend, or visit my Web site at to learn more.

This will impact everyone who receives city water including the towns of Smithsburg, Funkstown and Williamsport. And although this project has begun, I believe it's never too late to save $4 million when you consider that the tank is only worth about $2 million.

Dave Shindle

Children come before a new central office

To the editor:

In the Annapolis Notes column in the Jan. 30 Herald-Mail, Art Callaham referred to the Board of Education office on Commonwealth Avenue as, "the slum, I mean the warehouse, I mean the administrative office" He further said, "I don't know how we hire any teachers," referring to the first impression prospective employees get when they see the building. Callaham, executive director of Greater Hagerstown Committee, made these comments while attending a meeting in Annapolis about incentives to encourage reuse of vacant buildings. He would like the BOE to move its offices to the Allegheny Power building.

This idea is nothing new. Since I moved to Washington County in 1991, this idea has resurfaced as regularly as leap year. New locations for the BOE office have been proposed for a myriad of reasons, none of which has anything to do with providing an improved work environment for dedicated central office employees.

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