- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 26, 2002

FREDERICK, Md. The state has granted this city's emergency plea to use a hurriedly dug well to supplement a water supply that has run dangerously short.
The temporary permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) 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.
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 for the past 18 months in Maryland's second-largest city.
"This is just an emergency permit," she said. "We really would like Hurricane Isidore to come and drop several inches of rain to replenish our reservoir capacity."
Isidore, now downgraded to a tropical storm, was headed toward the U.S. Gulf coast yesterday after battering Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula with heavy rains and high winds on Monday.
In a second positive development, state environmental regulators have 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.
Michael Marschner, Frederick County's director of utilities and solid-waste management, said the 42 percent reduction would allow the county to make an additional 3.3 million gallons of water available to the city daily.
Frederick's new well was dug and tested during the summer in a neighborhood on the city's eastern edge. On Monday, workers were completing a temporary treatment plant, assembled in five days in a city park parking lot, that will purify the water before sending it to household taps.
Because it was developed hastily, state regulators are requiring the city to conduct a dye trace study and geophysical investigation when withdrawals begin, to determine the potential for sinkholes in the area. Sinkholes can develop when water pumped from an underground aquifer causes cavities in the bedrock to collapse.
The city also must design, implement and maintain a sinkhole-monitoring program, with a plan due to the state within 30 days, under the permit.
"Our assurance is that we are acting with all prudence," Mrs. Dougherty said. "We are being cautious, and we are listening to what the experts are telling us."
The city of 53,000 is suffering from a long-term drought affecting much of the Northeast and from rapid, poorly planned growth that boosted its population by 31 percent in the 1990s.
Frederick's accumulated precipitation during the past year was about 9 inches below normal, compared with a deficit of nearly 16 inches in Baltimore, according to the National Weather Service.
RobertSummers, director of the MDE's Water Management Administration, said the reservoirs serving Baltimore City are down to about 100 days of supply.
He said it will take more than a tropical storm to pull Maryland out of the drought.
"We are very deep in this drought, and we need months of average or above-average rainfall to say we're coming out of this drought," he said.
On Aug. 28, Gov. Parris N. Glendening urged residents and businesses in central and eastern Maryland to cut water use by 10 percent. Mr. Summers said that the initial response was strong, but that conservation had fallen to 2 percent in the week ending Sept. 18.
"We don't want people to slack off on their conservation. They need to be conserving," he said.

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