Planned Rubble Dump Alarms Well Users

Webster Residents Rally To Deny Mra Permit

October 06, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

Most days, David Brown doesn't dare use the dishwasher in his home near Havre de Grace.

Herman Hague, another Webster-area resident, says there are days that he can't wash clothes in his washing machine.

"If I do that," Hague said, "I'd be out of water."

For Brown and Hague, an adequate, clean water supply is the focus of debate overwhether the state should allow a proposed rubble fill to open.

Consultants for Maryland Reclamation Associates Inc., the firm proposing the project, say wells in Webster would not be affected by the dumpbecause water flows from the community toward the project site.

But that argument hasn't put Brown's worries to rest. He says his family had to fill pitchers of water at neighbors' homes throughout most of September because the four wells at their home in Webster didn't produce enough water.

Brown and Hague were among the approximately 300 people who attended a four-hour public hearing at Havre de Grace High Monday on MRA's plans to open a rubble and asbestos dump near Webster, a community just west Havre de Grace.

The hearing was part of the state Department of the Environment's review of MRA's plans for the dump.

About two dozen speakers, including Brown, urged stateadministrators to deny the firm's application for two permits to open a dump at a 68-acre site on Gravel Hill Road.

Community residents say they fear the rubble fill will drastically reduce and pollute ground water supplies, decrease property values and increase truck traffic in the rural neighborhood.

The three attorneys and three consultants hired by MRA president Richard D. Schafer were the only people who spoke in favor of the dump at the hearing. The consultants saidtheir studies showed the dump will not reduce or pollute water supplies.

However, consultants for the Concerned Citizens for Eastern Harford County, a community group that formed to fight the rubble fill, disagreed.

A decision by the environment department is still several months away. The results of two court cases -- one in Harford Circuit Court and another in the state Court of Special Appeals -- could overrule the department's decision. The courts must decide whether to uphold efforts by the county to prevent Maryland Reclamation from building the rubble fill.

Brown, who has lived near the proposed dump site for 11 years, told state administrators at the hearing, "I don't think it's fair to ask me, my family and my neighbors to return to the antiquated water system of the 19th century so some company can make a large profit."

Brown said his wells finally began providing an "adequate" supply of water on Sept. 27, but he, his wife and their three children still schedule showers in the mornings and evenings and flush their toilet only when necessary.

Hague said at the hearing that his home and three apartments he owns are plagued with a poor water supply. The residences, which are across the street from the proposed site, share three wells.

If the rubble fill is approved, Hague said at Monday's hearing, he fears its operations could eliminate water supplies and force him to move from his home of 44 years.

"I can't see staying much longer if this rubble fill goes in," he said.

The dump might drain water supplies of the St. James AfricanMethodist Episcopal Church of Gravel Hill and force the 142-year-oldchurch to close, said its pastor, the Rev. Violet Tann.

The church, which serves as the center of one of the oldest black communities in Harford, is about 120 feet from the proposed rubble fill site. Tann said the church has been experiencing water supply problems.

When the church holds more than one function on a Sunday, it often takesuntil the following Thursday for the well to be replenished, the pastor said.

The church is now on its fourth well -- 420 feet deep --since the early 1970s. After Sunday programs, the well often contains less than 30 feet of water, said Tann.

"The water is the life blood of the church," Tann said. "Without it, it will be a non-existentchurch.

"No one should think they have the right and the audacityto come up against God's church," Tann said at the hearing, pointingto Schafer, his lawyers and consultants.

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