State demands owner repair water system Churchville residents cite contamination, loss of service

June 27, 1993|By Aminah Franklin | Aminah Franklin,Staff Writer

State environmental officials have threatened to go to court to force the owner of a private Churchville water system to make repairs after complaints of repeated loss of service, low pressure and contamination.

The owner, Charles Edwards, has failed to comply with repeated requests from state officials to make overdue repairs, said John Goheen, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Mr. Goheen said the department would issue a formal order early this week that Dr. Edwards begin making necessary repairs within 30 days. If he fails to do, Mr. Goheen said, the state would go to court to seek sanctions against Dr. Edwards and force him to make the repairs.

Dr. Edwards, who also is a Baltimore physician, is the developer of one of the two communities that the three-well system supplies, Campus Valley Estates, built about four years ago. The water system also supplies the Park Campus community and the Campus Hills Shopping Plaza.

Residents and businesses had no water June 2, June 3 and on June 15, and officials blamed a burst 10-inch pipe.

Harford's Health Department, a state agency, supplied water from a truck June 2 to June 6 and on June 15, because of the disruptions and evidence of fecal coliform bacteria in one of the three wells.

Because of fears of contamination, most of the 72 homeowners have relied on bottled water or private companies that bring water to their homes. The Health Department also ordered four restaurants at Campus Hills Shopping Plaza to close June 2 and June 3 because of the disruption.

State environment officials warned residents June 18 not to drink their water because of "toxic levels" of fecal coliform bacteria -- the bacteria found in sewage -- that was discovered in a well.

Health officials told residents that the decaying fecal bacteria causes diarrhea, cramps, nausea, possible jaundice, headaches and fatigue.

The state's order will require Dr. Edwards to hire a professional engineer to evaluate the entire water system; install an additional well for back-up capacity; design a detailed emergency response plan to more effectively deal with unexpected problems; repair and repaint a 200,000-gallon water storage tank; and make repairs the engineer deems necessary.

Dr. Edwards could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Goheen said that before issuing the formal order, the department wanted to give Dr. Edwards a chance to respond to written directives.

He said Dr. Edwards has made some improvements to the outside of the wells, mostly to prevent the infiltration of ground and surface water that can carry bacteria into the wells.

Residents and business owners call their recent ordeal the latest in a series of problems with the water system and say Dr. Edwards has refused to respond to their complaints.

For several years, they said, they have continually had to make do with low water pressure. They also report brownish water flowing from taps and brown or blue stains left by water on clothing, tubs and toilets.

"I want to see the whole system overhauled and brought up to standard," said Wendy Tapscott, an eight-year resident of Park Campus. "How will the water system ever be OK if the pipes and other structures are corroded and falling apart?"

"We need to know who's going to assume responsibility for this water system," Mrs. Tapscott said.

Jackie Mack, a Park Campus resident, said she and neighbors are fed up with the system and want it fixed now.

"The water came out in a drizzle, the toilets wouldn't flush and we stillcouldn't take showers," she said of the most recent disruption.

Residents also said Dr. Edwards raised their water fees this year from $26.70 to $41.95 a quarter, but no repairs have been made to the water system to make it safer.

At the Campus Hills Shopping Plaza, Bob Moore, owner of Campus Cafe and Catering, said the recent forced closings cost him a lot of business.

"I had to call people who had made reservations for dinner here on two different nights and tell them to eat somewhere else," he said.

Mr. Moore, a tenant in the shopping center for nearly seven years, said he has had enough of the faulty system and the loss of business it's cost him. He was forced to close down for several days in 1989, the year Mr. Edwards bought the system, due to a similar problem, he said.

"When I have to close my doors I still have expenses to pay out but no income coming in," he said.

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