Finksburg company told to repair stream damage

June 19, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

A Finksburg construction company is under a federal agency's order to repair environmental damage to a stream and adjacent wetlands on its property. But a spokesman for the company says it hasn't caused any damage.

Sandra A. Mues, an Army Corps of Engineers enforcement officer, issued a stop-work order to Kibler Construction Co. late last month. The order barred the company from doing any more grading near the stream and wetlands until it removes fill dirt that Ms. Mues said was improperly dumped there and repairs the damage.

"I think it will take some substantial amount of machinery to restore that [damage]," Ms. Mues said. She said it appeared that the contractor had put a large amount of dirt into the stream and wetlands.

Diana Coyne, office manager for Kibler Construction, referred all questions to Carroll Land Services Inc., which designed the company's planned equipment storage building. The building will be on part of Kibler's 25-acre property on Baltimore Boulevard near Liberty Reservoir.

Richard Hull, president of Carroll Land Services, said he didn't believe his company had put any dirt in the stream or the adjacent wetlands.

"I think once Sandy [Mues] has all the facts, that's the way it'll come down: that we were doing what we were supposed to be," Mr. Hull said.

Mr. Hull said that James Kibler, president of the construction company, graded an area near the wetlands to clear it of multiflora rose. The company plans to plant trees there to meet forest ordinance requirements. That is apparently the area Ms. Mues spotted, he said.

"We had flagged the wetlands," Mr. Hull said. "It was a controlled situation."

Ms. Mues said what she observed was that the contractor had apparently filled in the stream and wetlands. The stream feeds the North Branch of the Patapsco River, which empties into the reservoir.

Dumping dirt into a stream causes turbidity, which harms fish and microscopic animals and blocks the sunlight that stream vegetation needs, said Thaddeus J. Rugiel, chief of the corps' enforcement section.

The effect is worse in a stream than in a pond, Mr. Rugiel said.

"It's sort of like emptying your vacuum cleaner bag in your living room. The dirt won't get into your bedroom. In a stream, that dirt carries for miles," he said.

Ms. Mues said last week that she had not received a response from Kibler to her May 25 stop-work order, although she had received telephone messages from Carroll Land Services technicians.

Ms. Mues said she has not decided whether to recommend that Kibler be fined. She said the corps focuses on repairing environmental damage rather than imposing penalties.

Mr. Rugiel said the agency usually seeks penalties only against chronic offenders or in cases in which someone has willfully ignored the need for a permit. He said the staff helps to educate the public.

"The simple matter is that folks don't realize a lot of the time that they're in wetlands," he said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment classifies tributaries to the branch as "fishable-swimmable," the agency's basic classification for protected waters.

The North Branch is classified as a recreational trout stream. That means it is clean enough for trout to survive for "put and take" fishing, but too warm for the fish to live there through the summer, said Don Elmore, department administrator for water quality regulations.

The county commissioners granted Kibler a reduction in forest conservation ordinance requirements in April. The company will be required to plant 0.2 acres in trees.

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