PIEDMONT - During the Wednesday evening meeting of the Piedmont City Council, mayor Ben Smith spoke on what may happen to the community's raw water source that is pumped through pipes on Verso Paper Mill property as an emergency.

By Jean Braithwaite
Tribune Correspondent
PIEDMONT - During the Wednesday evening meeting of the Piedmont City Council, mayor Ben Smith spoke on what may happen to the community’s raw water source that is pumped through pipes on Verso Paper Mill property as an emergency.
He explained that the actual water supply starts with the North Branch of the Potomac River near the upper end of Luke, and “pumps on Verso property bring the water to Piedmont.”
Once the water comes to the community across the wooden bridge at the receiving area of the paper mill, the water is treated at the water plant on Piedmont hill.
Smith said that with the closure of Verso and if a new company takes possession of the Luke property, concerning the path of the water source, “They might not be as good to Piedmont as Verso has been.”
Smith later spoke of an option of having a water supply for Piedmont, and that is to make a connection with the Westernport system along Route 135 in the area of where Jake’s Service Station was once located.
Among the attendees at the council meeting was John Amoroso, and he asked Smith if the rumor he had heard was true about Piedmont seeking emergency funding to “tap into Westernport’s water line.” Smith answered, “Yes.”
Amoroso said, “Personally, I think that is a mistake,” as he added that when that connection is made, Westernport may want to have a withdraw permit, and, “We will be at the mercy of Westernport.”
Smith said, “This is an emergency and will be a temporary tap.”
He also said that the water lines for Piedmont are 120 years old and funding agencies will not give any money if water lines are already in place.
Amoroso said that the temporary hook-up may be alright, however, a concern of his was once the hook-up takes place, “There will be a rate increase.”
Smith said this choice seemed to “be the only way to go,” and this was the way funding agencies that he had contacted gave direction to accomplish having a water supply to Piedmont.
He also said that to get the water supply to Piedmont following the temporary access to Westernport’s supply and across the wooden bridge as a permanent option will take a new right-of-way process, along with obtaining related permits will take “from one year to 18 months.”
Amoroso said that he was good friends with former Westernport mayor Tom Smith and years ago when the water for that community came from Savage, a valve was placed right across from the wooden bridge, for the purpose of “selling the water to Piedmont.”
Smith said the price quote from Westernport on supplying water to Piedmont “will not hurt us,” and added, “We will be getting better water.”
Amoroso said that when he was a council member, he served as water commissioner and was familiar with the water system in Piedmont and voiced that he would like to talk further on this subject with mayor Smith.
The second citizen to speak was Pat Amoroso, and he mentioned that after the Labor Day holiday in 2017, a time of almost having Piedmont’s water supply “shut off from the mill,” and the concern was a back-up water supply service.
P. Amoroso said that he understood no funding would be received for raw water projects, of which Smith agreed.
Smith added that if the already treated water is received in the community, this would cause the water plant to be shut down, which could mean the plant would be ruined.
He said that he is greatly concerned about the water supply in Piedmont and has mentioned this subject at almost all recent council meetings.
P. Amoroso said purchasing water from Westernport is equal to a raise in the local citizens’ water bill, and Smith said he realized that may happen and could equal to just several dollars a month on the bill.
Smith said that concerning the water system and a feasibility study was started in 2016, with the main factor being receiving funding.
He said that because this situation is termed an emergency, “There is a slim chance of having cost,” however, the results “may not be what we want to do.”