Historic find deflects Port Deposit water rate increase
Original documents prove ownership
— Water customers in town will not face an increase in water rates of as much as 40 percent thanks to the discovery of historic documents proving the presence of certain water mains in the underground network of water distribution lines.
Mayor Wayne Tome said the original maps of the Port Deposit Water Company, which provided town water in 1896, were found in a safe deposit box.
“This was back when the water mains were wooden,” he said.
The map was one of several old documents that the mayor is grateful had been stored for safekeeping.
“We kind of had an idea it was there,” he added Thursday. “We were very happy with being able to find it. That’s why it is so important to save a lot of that history.”
Port Deposit purchased the company early in the 1900s. In 2010, Artesian bought the town’s water rights.
The Maryland State Highway Administration is preparing to launch a project
to install a series of larger outfalls in town to lessen the flood risk from the Susquehanna River. The outfalls will have check valves to keep the river from flowing back into town. Part of the project entails relocation of water mains.
“There are places in town where our lines have to be lowered to allow for these drains,” said Joseph DiNunzio, executive vice president of Artesian.
Vicky Rinkerman, town administrator, said the map held a key piece of information.
“It showed there was a water line under Main Street,” Rinkerman said.
According to DiNunzio, that meant the town and the utility could prove “prior rights certification.”
“We were able to show mains were under the roads before the SHA even existed,” he said. “If you are there before the state had a right to the road, then anything the state does that impacts you, the state pays for it.”
Without that certification, the cost to protect the town from future floods was high.
“The start up costs were around $1.3 million,” Tome said.
Eventually it was whittled down to between $500,000 and $600,000, but it was still a huge bill for a town with around 300 water customers.
“We were looking at a 30 to 40 percent increase in our water bills,” Tome said. “There was a lot of angst, especially with our residents on fixed incomes.”
DiNunzio said between Rinkerman’s efforts and research by Artesian, it took a year to come up with enough documentation.
“We are very happy. We certainly did not want the town’s residents to bear the price,” he said.
The discovery of an 1896 map helped Port Deposit and Artesian Water prove to Maryland State Highway Administration that it must bear the cost of moving water mains to install a series of outfalls to prevent future flooding in town.