CLEAR BROOK — Frederick Water may not cut ties with Carmeuse Lime and Stone, despite expressing a desire to do so for the past several years.
Frederick Water, which provides water and sewer service to more than 16,000 homes and businesses, has repeatedly expressed frustration over Carmeuse charging it about $1 million a year to pump water from the company's quarry pits in Clear Brook. Carmeuse has the largest mining operation in Frederick County, with limestone quarries in Clear Brook and Middletown. The 500-acre Clear Brook mine is located adjacent to Clearbrook Park off Martinsburg Pike (U.S. 11).
“Frederick Water is having positive discussions with Carmeuse regarding a long-term relationship that could restore the operations of the Anderson water treatment plant beyond its current April 23, 2020, lease termination,” Frederick Water Executive Director Eric Lawrence said in a recent email. “While the discussions are positive, no agreements have been executed by the leadership of either organization.”
In 2001, Frederick Water entered into an agreement with Global Stone Chemstone Corp., which Carmeuse purchased in 2008. The agreement permitted Chemstone’s mining operations and gave Frederick Water the right to draw water from quarry pits in Clear Brook and Middletown for $1 per year. The agreement also allowed for the construction of the James T. Anderson Water Filtration Plant on quarry-owned land in Clear Brook.
In 2013, Frederick Water entered into a new agreement with Carmeuse that superseded the 2001 agreement. This agreement removed Frederick Water’s right to use abandoned quarries and allowed Frederick Water to use the Anderson water treatment plant and adjacent quarry for a payment and seven-year lease, which expires in 2020.
Since then, Frederick Water officials have expressed a desire to become independent of Carmeuse. To do this, it plans to invest up to $30 million in the Opequon Water Supply Plan, which involves drawing up to 8 million gallons of water a day from Opequon Creek by February 2020. The plan includes Frederick Water building a water-intake infrastructure at 124 Woods Drive in northeastern Frederick County, off Brucetown Road.
As part of the plan, Frederick Water will move the James T. Anderson Water Treatment Plant from its current location to a 78-acre site off Stephenson Road.
Ian Karkaria, Carmeuse's director of operations, said Carmeuse has been trying to negotiate with Frederick Water to offer them a better rate. He said the company has 4 billion gallons of water in storage at any given time. If Frederick Water severs ties with Carmeuse, Karkaria said the company would try to find someone else to use the water. He does not believe Frederick Water should receive the water on Carmeuse’s property for free.
"I tell people if somebody puts a well in your front yard, you feel like they should pay for it," Karkaria said.
Frederick Water isn't the only entity that pumps water from Carmeuse’s Clear Brook property. Carmeuse also pumps water from quarry pits to extract rock. The water is either pumped into holding ponds or discharged into Clearbrook Run. Some residents who live near Carmeuse's Clearbrook location are concerned about the effects the water pumping is having on their wells.
During a Carmeuse public information meeting held last week to address citizen concerns, Gainesboro resident Vaughn Whitacre said the pumping of water at Carmeuse's site is causing well levels at neighboring properties to go down. He also said Carmeuse shouldn't be selling water, a necessary resource for county residents. He said if Frederick Water has to pay a lot of money to obtain water from Carmeuse, Frederick Water will charge its customers higher rates.
Karkaria said Carmeuse will investigate the claims that its operations are depleting well water.
“I don’t think it’s really a problem,” Karkaria said. “We are going to each individual place that complained to check on that.”
In the meantime, Frederick County continues to advance the OWSP to meet the county's water needs, Lawrence said. By 2035, its customers may require up to 12 million gallons of drinking water per day — roughly twice the current average usage of 5.6 million to 6.5 million gallons per day.
The project will be put out to bid this fall, with plans calling for the new Opequon Creek water intake and new water treatment plant to be under construction before the end of the year.