LONACONING — The Maryland Environmental Service arrived Wednesday morning to help the Midland-Lonaconing Water System restore safe and sustainable water to its customers.
A malfunction last week caused water to appear cloudy, which prompted the Maryland Department of the Environment to order a boil water notice for roughly 5,000 people at 1,700 metered properties in and around Lonaconing.
MDE “continues to work with the water system and has arranged for an operator from (MES) to be on site starting tomorrow,” Jay Apperson, deputy communications director for MDE, said via email Tuesday evening.
He said the MES operator would not be available for interview.
MDE will authorize the town to lift the boil water advisory when it “can demonstrate that drinking water standards can be met and maintained,” he said.
MDE’s goal with MES, its operational expertise on site, and in partnership with the town, “is to restore potable water to all of the system’s customers as quickly as possible,” Apperson said.
On Wednesday, Lonaconing Mayor Jack Coburn said state experts were working on the water system.
The Midland-Lonaconing Water System is served by Koontz, Midland-Gilmore and Charleston treatment plants.
“MES has taken over the plants,” Coburn said. “They will keep us updated each step of the way.”
Coburn said the town continues to get water from a Frostburg line that connects to the Midland-Lonaconing system.
“It’s metered,” he said. “They’ll tell us how much water comes through.”
Use of the Frostburg line, which was installed roughly 27 years ago, is “a very good precautionary measure,” Coburn said.
“We had issues years ago and the line was left in the ground,” he said. “It really comes in handy when needed.”
Gov. Wes Moore’s office said it facilitated the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services to deliver some bottled water to the town for the remaining days of the boil advisory.
“Anything we need, we call them,” Coburn said Wednesday of Moore’s office. “I can’t really see everything they did on the back side because it just happens and it’s caused by them.”
The town also received bottled water donations from PepsiCo, Coca-Cola and Martin’s grocery store, he said.
“I spoke with the (Western Maryland) food pantry yesterday and they’re donating water on Friday,” Coburn said.
Bottled water is available for the town’s water company customers at fire companies in Lonaconing, Midland and Barton, Coburn said.
“They have volunteer (firefighters) there handing out the water,” he said. “We can’t thank them enough.”
Snow Wednesday morning made it difficult for some folks to drive to the fire stations for bottled water.
“We’ve got about three or four inches down here,” Coburn said and added that fewer folks than on previous days had been to the fire companies to collect bottled water. “It’s just massively snowing up this way.”
Residents said they’re thankful for the bottled water, Coburn said.
“But of course the big question is, ‘How much longer do we have to boil it?’ he said. “We’ll put that (information) out as soon as we know.”
Lonaconing officials hope the boil water warning is lifted by the end of this month.
“It could be extended, it could be earlier,” Coburn said. “We’re not gonna be able to pinpoint the exact date.”
Meanwhile, he asks folks to remain understanding and help each other.
“The need unfortunately is patience,” Coburn said. “Always be a good neighbor.”