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Work to improve Pocomoke water quality beginning

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Dec. 7, 2017) Work to address decades-old water quality issues plaguing Pocomoke City began this week.

City Manager Bobby Cowger said Monday public works would start replacing pipes in the Pocomoke Heights area on 14th Street.

He said doing the project in-house would cost about $25,000 in materials and $15,000 in labor. Paying a contractor to do the work, Cowger said, would likely cost more than $100,000.

“This has been going on for over 20-some years and it’s a shame that the past administration has let this thing go, because grants and funding and money was available and a lot easier to get 25 years ago – even up to 10 years ago,” he said.

Cowger said a grant window for Maryland Department of the Environment funding started Dec. 1 and runs until Jan. 31. The town is expected to apply for at least $1 million in grants that would apply to fiscal year 2018, which starts July 1.

“We’re going to take a full look of the entire pipes, some of Market Street and any other bad areas that we’re having, and we’re going to put a grant application in to see just how much money we can get,” he said. “We do feel that we have an upper hand on getting a grant because of the [poor] quality of our infrastructure and the quality of water that’s coming out of it – we feel we have a good shot.”

To replace all of the subpar infrastructure, Cowger said, would likely cost $2 million.

“The city has got to attack this problem,” he said. “This has got to be the number-one priority in Pocomoke right now. This is stopping people from being able to sell homes [and] any new people from coming in. Nobody wants to buy a house and go out and live in the Heights.”

Cowger said he grew up in that area in the 1970s.

“The water was just as bad then as it is today,” he said. “Those people have put up with that for so long … Tomorrow they will see that, finally, we’re starting to make a stand on this thing,” he said.

He elaborated on Tuesday.

“The town has been waiting for 30 years. They’ve been misled for a long time by the past administration,” he said. “That was my number-one commitment when I came here, that I was going to do something. I’ve been here four months and now it’s coming to fruition.”

He said public works staff were cutting lines on Tuesday and would start installing new pipe Wednesday. The project is estimated to last three weeks.

The existing lines will stay charged while new lines are installed. Once installation is finished, the water would be turned off for about six-to-eight hours during the final connection. Residents have been kept up to date on the outage schedule, Cowger said.

“Every pipe we do, there should be a little bit of improvement, especially where our water treatment plant is being rehabbed right now,” he said. “That’ll be done by the end of December or middle of January at the latest.

“The plant’s going to be putting out excellent water, so there’s no reason we can’t get these pipes done so the residents can be getting the water they deserve,” he added.

The City Council approved borrowing $259,000 from Taylor Bank for repairs at the water treatment plant in July. The greensand filter system at the plant, designed to remove iron, manganese, and hydrogen sulfide, will be cleaned and replaced with new valves being put on, Cowger said.