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January 24, 2023

Lonaconing mayor: Gov.’s office to help with water problem

Credit: Cumberland Times News

LONACONING, Md. — Jack Coburn has bought thousands of bottles of water in the past few days, but said Gov. Wes Moore’s office plans to change that routine.

Coburn, the mayor of Lonaconing, said the town has purchased 4,200 16-ounce bottles of water per day to give customers of the local water company.

A malfunction at the Midland-Lonaconing Water System last week caused a boil water notice for folks at roughly 1,700 metered properties.

Coburn said Moore’s office Monday night told him he’d made his last trip to the local grocery store to buy bottled water because help is on the way.

“We didn’t go into specifics,” Coburn said.

He also said he talked to Moore on Monday, and added the governor, who was sworn into office Wednesday, “has been absolutely the most remarkable” leader and provided “very positive direction” throughout the water problem.

“(Moore) lets us know he’s supportive of us and behind us,” Coburn said.

The mayor also said U.S. Rep. David Trone’s office has offered to help “every day as well.”

Coburn on Friday said the water problems were caused by a broken part within a reservoir.

A warning posted on Lonaconing’s Facebook page at that time stated water testing for turbidity, or cloudiness, indicated levels far above state and federal standards.

Normal levels at the water plant are typically less than 0.1 turbidity units, the warning stated.

“A water sample taken January 17, 2023, showed levels of 9 turbidity units,” it stated. “Because of these high levels of turbidity, there is an increased chance that the water may contain disease-causing organisms.”

The organisms could include bacteria, viruses, and parasites, “which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches,” the warning stated.

“If you experience any of these symptoms and they persist, you may want to seek medical advice,” it stated.

The warning told customers to boil water for one minute and let it cool before using, or use bottled water.

“Boiled or bottled water should be used for making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice,” the warning stated.

Elderly people or those with severely compromised immune systems, as well as infants and pregnant women, “should seek advice from your health care providers about drinking this water,” it stated and provided the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline 800-426-4791.

The Midland-Lonaconing Water System is served by Koontz, Midland-Gilmore and Charleston treatment plants.

“A problem occurred with the treatment system at the Midland-Gilmore Filter Plant that allowed water with high turbidity to enter the distribution system,” the warning stated.

Additionally, turbidimeters and chlorine analyzers at the Midland-Gilmore and Koontz plants were not working properly, and required new mechanical parts to be installed.

The town will remove the warning after it gets approval from the Maryland Department of Environment.

Also Friday, Jay Apperson, MDE deputy director of communications, said the department was “focused on assisting the Midland-Lonaconing water system in promptly restoring a safe and sustainable supply of water” to all of its customers.

MDE conducted a site visit at the water treatment system on Jan. 17, he said.

“The system serves a population of about 5,000,” Apperson said via email.

MDE required the water system to issue a boil water advisory for its customers due to elevated turbidity, and take steps to address the issue, he said.

That advisory was first issued Wednesday morning, Apperson said.

“MDE also notified the Allegany County Health Department,” he said.

“MDE estimated that a water outage related to this event affected a few hundred homes,” Apperson said.

MDE encourages customers to follow guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a boil water advisory.

On Monday, Coburn said water has been restored to all customers, but the boil notice remains in effect.

MDE officials “haven’t given me a date” when the warning will end, he said and added filters are being installed to the water system.

Meanwhile, free bottled water will be distributed to customers at the Lonaconing Good Will Fire Company, 6 Douglas Ave., from 9 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Coburn thanked the fire department’s volunteers for their help.

“They have done an unbelievable job (and) we highly appreciate that,” he said.

“There’s a lot of people doing everything they can to correct this problem,” Coburn said. “We’re doing everything we can and we’ll continue to do that.”