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.

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