Villa Julie College can receive a state permit to discharge treated sewage water into a stream that intermittently feeds the Jones Falls, a state administrative law judge has ruled.
The decision is the latest in a series of rulings that have allowed the private, four-year institution to proceed with plans to expand at its location in the semi-rural Green Spring Valley over opposition from neighbors.
Baltimore County has authorized an amendment to its water and sewer master plan permitting the college to build a waste water treatment plant to replace a failing septic system. The treatment plant would allow the college to construct two new buildings on its campus and double its enrollment. The expansion is opposed by the Valleys Planning Council and several nearby property owners.
The Maryland Department of the Environment tentatively decided to issue the discharge permit a year ago. The state agreed with the college's request to cap the amount of discharge at 63,000 gallons per day.
The permit also requires the waste water discharge that eventually flows into the Jones Falls to match the water quality of the stream.
Opponents of the Villa Julie expansion requested an administrative hearing on the environmental agency's decision. Administrative Law Judge Suzanne S. Wagner issued her ruling last week.
"We're very disappointed with the ruling," said Margaret Worrell, executive director of the Valleys Planning Council Inc. Mrs. Worrell said that discharging treated water into a stream that is dry during certain periods poses a health hazard. She said there are alternatives that weren't seriously considered.
"Adjoining property owners said they would allow the college to run a pipe through their properties to carry the discharge directly into the Jones Falls," said Mrs. Worrell. Judge Wagner ruled that was not a reasonable alternative.
Benjamin Bronstein, an attorney representing Villa Julie, said a pipeline would limit the amount of discharge and thus limit any expansion plans. "The state has already imposed the second most stringent water quality standards for a waste water treatment lant in Maryland," Mr. Bronstein said.
Mr. Bronstein said the college's septic system is handling about 28,000 gallons of sewage a day. But, because the system is failing, it must be pumped out on a daily basis, Mr. Bronstein said, and the excess sewage dumped into the public sewer system.
Initially, the new waste water treatment plant would discharge about 30,000 gallons a day, an amount that would increase to 63,000 gallons a day over a five year period, Mr. Bronstein said.
Last July, county Zoning Commissioner Lawrence Schmidt granted the college a special exception to expand in a agricultural zone. Mr. Schmidt also ruled that Villa Julie enrollment must be limited to 2,500, a size the planning board endorses. Opponents of the college's expansion appealed the special exception, while the college appealed the student enrollment limitation. The case is currently before the county Board of Appeals. The school currently has 1,776 students. Villa Julie wants to build two new buildings and an addition to an existing structure that would add 98,000 square feet of additional classrooms, laboratories and study areas.