Churchville water works doesn't

November 23, 1993

The patchwork quilt of water companies operating in Harford County, some public, some private, has rarely produced the kind of major problems that one might expect.

Certainly, the prices charged consumers have varied from location to location. And there have been notable squabbles between local governments over water rights and obligations under joint facilities. With so much of the county, geographically at least, dependent on the whims of individual wells, any central assured supply has been considered a real advantage.

The Campus Hills Water Works near Churchville has been an exception. The small privately owned water distribution system has sustained a series of problems and failures, related both to water quality and water supply, over the course of the year.

Earlier this month, the Maryland Department of the Environment got a court injunction to assume operation of the company because of public health hazards and to force the owner to hire a qualified manager for the questionable system.

Understandably, the absentee owner (developer of adjacent subdivisions and a shopping center) charges that MDE acted irresponsibly in grabbing the water system and handing it over to the quasi-public Maryland Environmental Service. He claims that improvements have been made and that the state's action was responsible for some of the difficulties in maintaining service to the 72 homes and 18 businesses.

The fact is that water is an essential utility, something that must be reliable virtually all of the time. The dangerous over-dosing of the water supply with chlorine by the Campus Hills company earlier this month, the continuing bacteriological problems with at least one of the company's wells and the water line breaks in service -- these are enough reason for the system to transfer to responsible operators.

The owner, Dr. Charles C. Edwards, has not honored his commitments in a legal consent order to improve the system and hire a competent operator. While the courts must deal with legal and financial responsibilities of the situation, it is clear that this system is headed for takeover by the state and eventually by the Harford County system. There's ample precedent for the move, the Joppatowne sewage treatment plant, for example. It's a development that should happen before too much more water passes through the pipes.

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