LONACONING — A boil water warning for customers of the Midland-Lonaconing Water System has been extended for another week to 10 days beginning Wednesday.
The warning was first issued Jan. 17 after the system’s water appeared cloudy, which prompted the Maryland Department of the Environment to order the boil water notice for roughly 5,000 people at 1,700 metered properties in and around Lonaconing.
Normal levels for the water system are typically less than 0.1 turbidity units, but a water sample at that time showed levels of 9 turbidity units.
“Because of these high levels of turbidity, there is an increased chance that the water may contain disease-causing organisms,” the warning stated.
The organisms could include bacteria, viruses, and parasites, “which can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches,” it stated.
The Maryland Environmental Service took control of the water system Jan. 25.
On Monday, Lonaconing Mayor Jack Coburn said MDE hasn’t indicated how much longer the water will be unsafe.
“We can only get those answers from (MDE),” he said.
To help answer questions from the water system’s customers, Coburn said he invited MDE and MES officials to Lonaconing’s next monthly mayor and council meeting at 6 p.m. Monday.
“I moved it from town hall,” he said of relocating the meeting to the Good Will Fire Company Armory, 2 Advocate Court, to accommodate an anticipated large crowd.
Public comments and questions at the meeting will be limited to seven minutes per person.
Questions and messages about the water system’s problems from the Cumberland Times-News for MDE and MES were unanswered as of press deadline Tuesday.
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 boil water warning stated.
This isn’t the first time the water system has failed.
“All three reservoirs have experienced periods when inadequate volume was available to meet systems demands,” a December 2000 source water assessment for the Midland-Lonaconing Water System prepared by MDE stated.
“Long-term boil water advisories were issued due to the necessary supplementing of unfiltered water directly from the reservoirs to meet demand,” it stated.
“To address water shortages, pumping of well water into the reservoirs has increased and a permanent connection with the City of Frostburg’s water supply was established as backup,” the assessment stated.
Now, more than 20 years later, the Midland-Lonaconing system again relies on the Frostburg water line.
“Boiled or bottled water should be used for making ice, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and food preparation until further notice,” the warning stated.
Bottled water is available for the town’s water company customers at fire companies in Lonaconing, Midland and Barton.
The town has received bottled water donations from businesses and organizations including PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Martin’s grocery store and the Western Maryland food pantry.
On Monday, First United Bank & Trust in Cumberland donated “two large truckloads of bottled water,” Coburn said.
“People are still really helping out a lot,” he said. “We highly appreciate that.”