Carroll's not-so-sweet revenge

Donna Boller

November 13, 1992|By Donna Boller

CARROLL Countians have resented Baltimore City for much of this century. So when they drive by the golden domes of the new digesters at the city's Back River Waste Water Treatment Plant, they can chuckle over the fact some of the stuff being digested comes from their own septic tanks.

How does waste from rural Carroll, far to the west of Baltimore, get to Back River,to the east? Through the underground, literally and figuratively. Baltimore County, a buffer between Carroll and the city with plenty of its own waste, figures in the story.

Haulers who have permits to operate in Baltimore County are allowed to empty their trucks at designated manholes into county sewer mains, which carry the waste to the two city treatment plants, Back River and Patapsco.

Haulers are supposed to dump only the contents of Baltimore County septic tanks into the mains. But several haulers have permits to operate in both Carroll and Baltimore counties. It's easy to see how the waste from the two counties might mingle on the trucks.

Baltimore County officials take a very dim view of the practice. One Finksburg hauler was caught dumping Carroll waste into a sewer main on Bonita Avenue near Reisterstown. Officials in Towson aren't naive enough to think he's the only one dumping Carroll stuff in Baltimore County manholes.

"What we don't want to foster is [being] a dumping ground for anyone else," says Gary Sipes, chief of the Baltimore County division of waste water monitoring and analysis. "Carroll County doesn't want to take trash from Baltimore City. It's partly the NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard]) principle. We don't want to take septic waste from other counties."

Carroll County haulers, however, face a government-produced clog in their line of work. The waste they pump has to go somewhere. The traditional solution was to spread it on fields, but the Department of the Environment ordered Maryland counties to stop that practice and provide alternative disposal methods by Dec. 31, 1991.

With Carroll 10 months past that deadline, the department has allowed the four haulers with land application permits to continue using fields. But the county Health Department, which stopped issuing new land application permits more than a year ago, doesn't have an answer to what the nine remaining haulers are to do with the contents of their trucks.

Carroll has had a septic waste treatment plant ready to operate since March, but the commissioners delayed opening it for six months while they thought about how to measure loads so they could charge haulers. A scheduled October opening was

delayed again at the last minute.

The plant may open this month, but haulers criticize the planned fee -- at 9 cents a gallon it is more than quadruple the 2 cents a gallon Baltimore County charges -- and they say the plant's 26,000-gallon capacity is hopelessly inadequate.

Carroll's resentment of the city goes way back.

For example, 61 years ago, Baltimore's General Assembly delegation pushed through a law that granted the city all water rights to the Patapsco River watershed. That law later prevented a thirsty, growing Carroll County from tapping many of the streams that run through it.

DTC And much more recently, Sykesville Middle School bus driver Wenda K. Bollinger was convicted of failure to obey a plainclothes police officer's order to move her bus during a field trip to the Maryland Science Center. Her conviction sparked suggestions that Carroll Countians boycott Baltimore.

But no one suggested withholding the contents of Carroll septic tanks from city treatment plants. The likely result is that some of what goes under the golden domes of the new digesters at Back River will continue to . . . flow . . . from Carroll County.

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