Misguided Zealotry HOWARD COUNTY

July 13, 1993

How do you explain the zeal of some slow-growth advocates? You can't. Better to simply give them all the rope required.

The latest to figuratively hang herself has been slow-growther Susan Gray, a zealot whose new effort has been to stop the extension of sewer and water service to about a dozen companies in the Clarksville business district. Wells providing drinking water to the business district, which runs along Route 108 north of Route 32, have been found to be contaminated with toxic solvents and salt.

Hardest hit by the contamination problem has been the St. Louis School, which has had to install an expensive filtration system to rid its highly contaminated water.

The source of the contamination is unknown, but health officials believe it probably is a result of a high concentration of businesses, such as gasoline stations and auto repair shops.

Ms. Gray is demanding that the county planning board reject any plan to extend water and sewer service to the district, fearing that to do so would encourage rezoning and development. She goes on to cite the fact that tests conducted in 1992 showed levels of contamination above federal water safety guidelines for only two of the businesses in the Clarksville business district.

"What you're seeing is something that has been planned for a long time and that doesn't have any basis in health hazards," said Ms. Gray in a fit of hyperbole designed to suggest a sinister master plan to bring massive development to the area.

What she fails to state is that since 1985 at least half of the businesses have been found to have high levels of well-water contaminants. She also fails to acknowledge that for many people -- including those in the business district forced to drink from tainted wells -- any level of contamination is a hazard.

Ms. Gray was similarly misguided when she spoke out against extending service to residents near the county landfill in Marriottsville, where toxic solvents have been found leaking into bedrock water supplies. In that case, a show of hands proved that Ms. Gray was not speaking for a majority of Marriottsville residents.

Ms. Gray has her priorities backwards. When it comes to public health and safety, concerns about development must be secondary.

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