North East makes progress in improving water quality
— A few months after being alerted by the state to issues with its water quality, the town’s water department believes it is making progress in addressing the issue.
The Maryland Department of the Environment notified the town in April that it had exceeded the maximum contaminant level for haloacetic acids, chemical compounds that contain chlorine and bromine, by 0.6 parts per billion. This water quality issue actually occurred last fall, though neither the town nor MDE was aware of the issue until the spring because the town initially reported an incorrect number by accident.
That water quality concern is part of a larger pattern of water
issues the town has been dealing with for several years. Last month, town officials said that the town generates about a million more gallons of water a day than it can use. When all that water sits in the system without being used, it can lead to a buildup of contaminants.
Though North East has continued to meet with MDE to discuss its water problems, data presented at Wednesday’s town meeting showed that the town has made drastic improvements in water quality within the last year.
Water Department supervisor Ron Carter presented the town board with data collected on July 8 for total trihalomethanes, or TTHM, a group of chemical compounds produced when organic matter in natural water reacts chemically with chlorine disinfectants. The goal for these com- pounds is less than 80 parts per billion (ppb), and at the Irishtown Road tank they dropped from 103 ppb last year to 81.5 ppb this year, while at Red Toad Road they dropped from 102 ppb to 69.6 ppb.
For H85s, another water quality measurement, which should be less than 60 ppb, Irishtown dropped from 59.7 ppb last year to 39 ppb this year, while Red Toad dropped from 92.2 ppb last year to 26 ppb this year, Carter said.
Carter attributed these improvements to the fact that the town has been dumping roughly 60,000 gallons of water out of the Irishtown Road tank and another 60,000 gallons out of the Interstate 95 tank every day to improve water circulation.
“We’ve done other things too but that’s the main thing,” he said. “We now know what helps, so we’ve just got to figure out a way to keep it there.”
However, the town is looking into other ways to fix the water issues that don’t involve dumping so much water. At last month’s meeting, Commissioner Michael Kline suggest installing an extra pump to circulate the water within the Irishtown distribution system. Carter ran this idea past the town’s engineering firm, who said the plan has merit, though they’re still looking into specifics.
The town had also asked the firm to create a hydraulic model of the water system so they can better pinpoint problem areas. However, town employees have been relaying water data over to the firm and the engineer believes he can evaluate Kline’s plan without doing the model.
“He’s of the opinion that he can evaluate the effects of this suggestion independent of waiting on the model,” Town Administrator Melissa Cook-McKenzie said. “Because that’s six to nine months out and we want this in six to nine days.”
The town also has money budgeted to clean the Irishtown Road tank but has decided to wait on doing so until getting the engineer’s final suggestions. Cleaning the tank would cost about $40,000, but $35,000 of that goes toward temporary water storage while the tank is being cleaned, Carter said.
Waiting for the engineer’s assessment will save the town the cost of having to move the water out of the tank twice if the engineer suggests something like installing a mixer in the tank, Carter said.