Newark Water Concerns Exacerbated By Recent Blaze

SNOW HILL – Newark has minimal water storage without a planned new water tower, making fire fighting difficult with the tower at least a year away.

The water system in Newark has no fire protection built into it, Public Works Deputy Director John Ross said this week.

“It does not cover large demands like a fire. There’s not enough storage down there for that,” Ross said.

The lack of fire protection is not necessarily an oversight. Water systems are still occasionally built with little reserves for firefighting.

“It’s an old water system,” Ross said. “We’re going to try to adapt it so it will provide some kind of protection. We’re just a little bit late for the Developmental Center.”

The mid-county hamlet’s lack of water storage came under the spotlight two weeks ago when the Worcester County Developmental Center burned down and firefighters ran out of water.

“The supply did not go dry. We couldn’t fill the tankers up fast enough to get it to the Development Center fast enough,” said Ross.

Firefighters tapped into a lagoon of treated wastewater to eventually put the fire out.

There appears to be little question in the minds of the County Commissioners that Newark needs a water tower, and this week they approved a resolution exempting the project site from county zoning ordinances, clearing some obstacles from the path of the project. 

But the project, however, desperate the need, will not be completed quickly.

“It’s in the system but it’s going to take a long time,” said Commissioner Louise Gulyas.

Ross was more specific. “It’s going to take a year,” he said.

The design should be complete by the end of the 2007, and the project could begin construction in the spring.

Moving a used, but refurbished, water tower from Ocean Pines down to Newark is a weak option at this point.

“There’s a lot of housing built around the north tower [in Ocean Pines] and it would be hard to get it out of there,” Ross said. “It’s getting less and less likely, but it’s still one of the options.”

Financing the project might be difficult, according to Gulyas.

Water towers are expensive improvements. A grant of $200,000 from the Maryland Department of the Environment will defray some of the bill, but a new water tower would cost at least $460,000.

The service area has about $100,000 put aside for the water storage tower, but that leaves $160,000 to go.

The county has already purchased a site on Mill Rd. to house the water storage structure, which prompted the zoning exemption.