James Rada, Jr.
Although Emmitsburg has not been receiving complaints about brown water lately, town staff is looking for ways to fix known problems with the water system, so they don’t cause future problems. However, the fixes could cost $5.3 million, so the town needs to find a way to pay for these fixes.
Emmitsburg Town Manager Cathy Willets updated the town commissioners on the work staff has been doing on the water system.
Water samples were taken from various homes and locations around town that had reported brown water. The samples were sent to the Maryland Department of the Environment to be tested for iron, manganese, lead and copper, bacteria, turbidity, and pH and chlorine levels. Willets hadn’t been sent the results by the February meeting.
New parts had been ordered to replace failing parts on the water line, and the pressure-reducing valve was adjusted to run smoother. This could help reduce brown water in the line. The town also purchased a new clarifier for the water treatment plant that would better deal with the raw water coming into the plant.
“Our treatment process is doing its job,” Willets said. “It’s treating the water, but the water, unfortunately, hasn’t changed over the last couple of months.”
The commissioners also approved replacing a portion of the town water line that runs under Waynesboro Pike. It will require boring and the installation of a new 6-inch HDPE line under the road. The cost for this work is $23,800.
When the weather warms up, a line break on Tract Road will be repaired for $6,800.
Town staff has also met with the Middletown Town Manager to discuss how Middletown handled a brown water problem in 2013. Middletown did pay for water filters for some residents who met certain criteria; to fix their problem, they used funding from the Department of Community Housing and Development.
The town’s short-term plan is to increase pH levels of the water by adding ortho-phosphate. This will reduce tuberculation (flaking) in the water lines. The pressure-reducing valves will be replaced, and an automatic chemical feed will be added.
It is in the long-term where things get expensive. The water lines with tuberculation need to be replaced. These include lines on North Seton Avenue ($1.1 million, not including engineering fees), Waynesboro Pike ($750,000, not including engineering fees), and DePaul Street ($1.1 million, not including engineering fees). Future infrastructure projects include a Creamery Road Pump Station (estimated $2.5 million), and a clarifier at the wastewater treatment plant (estimated $800,000).
The total for these projects is $5.3 million, and the water fund only has $439,000 in cash in it. Money can be borrowed from other town funds but would have to be paid back. However, if too large an amount is used from the town reserves, it could make the town ineligible for certain loans because of the town’s change in finances.
Emmitsburg could get a 30-year loan currently at 3.15 percent from DCHD to pay for the work. If approved, the town could have the funding in the spring. Another option is funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This would be a 40-year loan at 2.25 percent, currently. Also, if eligible, the town could qualify for up to a 75-percent grant with a rate as low as 1.625 percent.
The Maryland Department of the Environment might also be able to provide some grant relief. However, Willets said MDE told the town that because there is “no health concern,” no immediate action has been taken. This is because previous water tests have shown that despite the discoloration, tests are within acceptable levels.