Road builder fined for mud leak at site

January 25, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

The State Highway Administration has fined a Rockville contractor $14,000 for allowing sediment-laden water to drain into Sawmill Creek from a retention pond at a Route 100 construction site near Severn.

The contractor, Francis O. Day Co., was fined $7,000 for each of the two days that the sediment flowed into the creek, Kristene Bevans, a spokeswoman for the SHA, said yesterday.

The company is building a 2-mile stretch of Route 100 between Interstate 97 and Route 170. It is part of a $120 million project to extend Route 100 seven miles from I-97 in Anne Arundel County to Interstate 95 in Howard County.

William Babcock, vice president of Francis O. Day Co., refused to comment.

The muddy water, which was detected Jan. 12, flowed from a hole in a fabricated metal pipe extending from the middle of the pond that is used to control the release of construction water into nearby streams. The pipe emptied into a small stream that fed into the creek.

Inspectors from the highway agency and the state Department of the Environment, alerted by a citizen's complaint, stopped work at the site until the hole could be repaired. The flow was halted before the pond was drained.

State highway officials included a routine provision in the contract with the company that spells out fines for environmental violations, Ms. Bevans said.

The fine levied by state highway officials, although not unprecedented, "is not something that happens all the time," she said.

Lina Vlavianos, a member of the Severn River Commission, reported the infraction after she said she noticed exceptionally muddy water in Sawmill Creek as she was driving south on I-97.

"I just happened to look over and I saw something was wrong with the creek," she said. "I stopped quickly to take a look and I knew something was wrong."

Ms. Vlavianos, who also is a member of the county's Soil Conservation Board, has visited the creek frequently to study it for the various environmental organizations with which she is involved.

"The stream was so, so muddy," she said. "Yes, we've had a little bit of rain . . . but this was way out of proportion to the rains that we have had."

MDE inspectors went to the site and confirmed that the mud was draining into the creek. But it was the highway administration that assessed the fine because the agencies have agreed to allow highway officials to handle environmental infractions on the Route 100 project.

"There was a problem and we're aware of the problem," said Michael Sullivan, an MDE spokesman. "We have been working with state highways and we will continue to monitor what they will do."

Both Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Vlavianos agreed there is no immediate way to determine whether the mud will cause the creek any lasting damage.

"We do know that sediment left the site. We do know that sediment travels a long way," Ms. Vlavianos said.

The fine, she added, is more than a slap on the wrist and will encourage other contractors to be more careful.

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