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Town wants residents’ help
 with sewer problem

(11/1) If residents want to stabilize their sewer rates, they are going to have to help the town find out where the problems are in the system, according to one Thurmont Town Commissioner.

“If the citizens don’t step up to the plate and assist, then I don’t want to have them come and complain that we aren’t getting this fixed fast enough,” Commissioner Wayne Hooper said during the Oct. 23 town meeting.

To speed things up, he proposed forming a group of residents who could check the laterals in their neighborhoods. Laterals are sewer lines owned by the homeowner that connect a home or business to the town’s main sewer lines.

“We think that [laterals] could be a significant factor or the problem with the system,” Mayor Martin Burns said.

Hooper said the group would be set up much like a Neighborhood Watch except the suspicious activity the residents would be looking for would not be criminals but leaks in the sewer system.

“If we can get citizens involved to do some leg work, we can identify the worst ones [laterals],” Hooper said.

The process would involve listening to laterals while it is raining to hear if water is flowing through the lines. If so, it could indicate a leak in the lateral that is allowing rainwater into the sewer system.

“The sooner we get this taken care of, the sooner we can think about lowering bills,” Hooper said.

The town is facing $10 million in sewer upgrades and repairs and two multi-million-dollar lawsuits over damage caused by sewer back-ups into residents’ homes. Because the town’s sewer system must be self supporting, paying for these items will continue to push up the cost for sewer service in the town. Thurmont already has some of the highest rates in the state.

If laterals are the problem, then homeowners could wind up incurring a large expense to make repairs to their laterals.

The commissioners decided to see what resident interest is in the resident program and then make a decision on whether to pursue the program. Those residents who are interested can contact the town office at (301) 271-7313.

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