Grant, Loan Allow Wicomico To Address Water Issues

SALISBURY – The Wicomico County Council accepted funding this month to construct a clean water supply for Morris Mill Road area residents coping with contaminated water for some time.

Last Tuesday morning, the Wicomico County Council voted to approve a resolution authorizing County Executive Rick Pollitt to accept and execute a $1.5 million grant award, and a low interest loan in the amount of $900,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Rural Development, Water and Environmental Programs (WEP).

According to the resolution, the WEP through the USDA-Rural Development offers loans, grants and loan guarantees to public bodies to assist rural communities with their water, wastewater, and solid waste problems.

A number of private water wells in the Morris Mill Road area have been contaminated with Trichloroethylene (TCE), and the County Council, sitting as the Wicomico County Urban Services Commission, has established the Morris Mill Urban Service District for the purpose of providing a safe water supply to the residents.

The Wicomico County Department of Public Works submitted an application for Federal Assistance to the USDA-Rural Development, WEP, who approved a Rural Utilities Service grant in the amount of $1.5 million and a low interest loan in the amount of $900,000.

The federal funding will be used for the construction of water mains and an elevated tower to serve the Morris Mill Road area residents with the public water from the City of Fruitland.

Next, the County Council closed its legislative session to convene as the Urban Service Commission to pass a resolution to establish the time prescribed for connection of properties in the Morris Mill Urban Service District to the public water system serving the district.

The resolution states, “the commission initiated the creation of an Urban Service District pursuant to County Code and at the public hearing held on October 14, 2013 deemed it necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the residents to create the district for the purpose of providing a potable water system to the property owners of the Morris Mill Road area.

“The district became final in the absence of a sufficient petition on December 2, 2013, and funding was then secured from the State of Maryland and USDA-Rural Development for the installation of a water supply system. A condition for funding is that all property owners in the designated Morris Mill Road area shall be connected to the water supply immediately upon its availability.”

The commission voted unanimously to approve the resolution and reconvened as the County Council. The project is estimated to be completed by February 2016.

“This project, at least in my short tenure that I have been here, it is one of the biggest things we have accomplished. This illustrates a high level of collaboration and how government is truly supposed to work … I really don’t think this would have been possible in the time frame without everybody’s help,” Council President Matt Holloway said of the local, state and federal governments who have participated in the project.  “It is due to relationships that have been established through us all that made this a success. I am proud to be able to sit here and be a part of coming to the aid of citizens in their greatest time of need.”

In 2012, TCE was detected in and polluting well water of Morris Mill Road area residents. According to the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), TCE is a clear liquid with a sweet odor. It is used as a solvent to remove grease from metals and in the production of other chemicals. It is also used in paints, varnishes, lacquers, paint removers, adhesives, and other commercial and consumer products.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that long-term TCE exposure could pose risks to the nervous system, kidneys, liver, immune system and male reproductive system. The EPA has also concluded that TCE exposure might pose risks to unborn babies, including birth defects.

As of October, based on the quarterly sampling MDE has conducted, 81 total wells have detections of TCE. Forty-five of those detections are above the maximum contaminate level of 5 ppb. Sixteen wells with detections above action level of 2.18 ppb, meaning they qualify for activated carbon units based on the population inside the residence. Twenty wells with detections below action level of 2.18 ppb, meaning no action is required. Eleven wells previously non-detect now have detections.