Troubled water service agrees to let agency run and rebuild it

December 19, 1993|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

Campus Hills Water Works has agreed to hire the Maryland Environmental Service (MES) to operate its water system for the next three months in an effort to clear up long-standing problems with quality and adequacy.

Charles C. Edwards, president of the small, privately run water company near Churchville, and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) signed a consent order Dec. 8.

In it, Dr. Edwards agreed to pay MES, an agency that helps local governments build and operate landfills, recycling programs, and sewage and water plants, to run the company for at least 90 days and authorize needed repairs.

The agreement grew out of a suit MDE filed Nov. 2 in Baltimore Circuit Court against the water company, charging that Dr. Edwards had failed to make state-ordered improvements to the facility.

Among other things, Dr. Edwards will be required to pay for the repair or replacement of the largest of the system's three wells, ,, which was ordered shut in October because of repeated contamination. He also has agreed to pay to rebuild the chlorinator -- a device that regulates the amount of chlorine in the system -- and maintain a stable and sufficient water level in the storage tank.

"This gives him more than enough time to work things out," said Harford County Health Officer Thomas M. Thomas, whose department has been monitoring the Campus Hills system since the summer.

The consent order also calls for an evaluation of the need for an alarm that would indicate system failure in either the storage tank or the chlorination system.

In a separate order signed on the same date, Dr. Edwards agreed to lend Campus Hills Water Works up to $15,000 of his personal funds to cover the cost of repairs. Dr. Edwards, a Baltimore physician, is the chief stockholder in the company, one of several small, private water suppliers in the county.

The 23-year-old water system, which serves 72 homes and 18 businesses, including the Campus Hills Shopping Center, has had chronic problems maintaining an adequate clean water supply since June, when breaks in a water line and contamination of a well left residents without drinking water for several days.

On Oct. 5, the system's largest well was ordered shut because of repeated contamination by fecal coliform bacteria, which is found in sewage. That well is still not in operation.

On Nov. 5, high levels of chlorine were discovered in the distribution system. Chlorine, which is added to drinking water as a disinfectant, was measured at 20 parts per million and higher. The normal residual levels are maintained at about 1 or 2 parts per million.

The state got an immediate injunction allowing MES to assume temporary control of the company that day. Chlorine levels pTC returned to normal after a week, but the system remained vulnerable to fluctuating chlorination, inadequate well supply and recurring threat of contamination, state officials said.

On Nov. 16, Circuit Judge Ellen Heller extended the injunction allowing the Maryland Environmental Service to remain on the scene two hours a day until an agreement was reached between the state and Dr. Edwards.

The most recent consent order outlines a time frame for each of the repairs to be completed in over the next three months. It also requires that Dr. Edwards and representatives of the Department of the Environment and MES meet on a monthly basis.

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