Morris Mill community to receive Fruitland water

Nearly 300 homes in a residential subdivision in southeast Salisbury will be tied into the Fruitland water supply in early 2016.

A 500,000-gallon water tower is being built in Fruitland to serve that town, plus the 273-home Morris Mill development. It’s an $8 million project funded by the federal, state and local governments, said Lee Beauchamp, director of Wicomico County’s Public Works Department.

Beauchamp said the project began after several Morris Mill residents noticed their water tasted bad, in February 2013.

A test revealed the contaminant TCE, an industrial solvent used in the past, when the area was a farm.

A degreaser, it could have been applied to farm equipment, or items being fixed in a repair shop. Or, Beauchamp said, a septic hauler might have dumped it.

“There is no good explanation yet. We don’t have it narrowed down,” he said.

During testing by the health department, “it quickly became apparent this was a large-scale contamination, so the Maryland Department of the Environment and the EPA came in and provided bottled water,” he said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency.

About 54 homes had water with contamination levels above what’s called the action level, and those homes were fitted with carbon filters.

While most of the residences are in non-detect level, some had dangerous levels, but nobody became sick.

Beauchamp said the good news is that TCE is a volatile organic compound, meaning it dissipates when exposed to the air.

Public works officials contacted legislators, including Delegate Norman Conway, and they helped provide funding.  The state will pay $3 million  and the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded $3 million. Residents will pay the rest, during 40 years.

Once their water comes from the new Fruitland tower, Morris Mill residents will no longer use wells, so their electric bills will be lower, Beauchamp said. They may retain irrigation wells for outdoor use, Beauchamp said.

The new water tower will be located on the edge of Fruitland, near the Route 13 bypass. When it’s finished,  Fruitland, with a population of 5,000, will be able to take its current tank off line for maintenance.

“It was a bad deal that it happened, but we came up with a proposal to tie into the water system with the city of Fruitland, to extend the water system to serve these homes,” he said.

 “I’m very happy we’ve been able to work together with the residents and come up with a  solution. We had to have the whole community buy into it,” Beauchamp said.

“The federal, state and local governments worked together. This is what government is here to do.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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