A state administrative judge yesterday granted Hampstead residents Dorothy and Herbert Hewlett more than a month's delay for their appeal of a water appropriation permit granted in November to the Black and Decker plant 100 yards from their house.
The Hewletts sought the delay after the town and county dropped their appeals last week, after reaching a settlement with Black and Decker (U.S.) Inc. Mr. Hewlett said yesterday that the couple, who had planned to rely on town and state experts for testimony, need time to find and subpoena new witnesses.
In a conference call yesterday with the Hewletts, state officials and attorneys for the company, Administrative Judge Joan C. Ross rescheduled the appeal hearing, which had been set for tomorrow and Thursday in Lutherville, to Sept. 23.
Black and Decker contends that it needs the permit so it can clean up contamination, including illegally high amounts of the possible carcinogen trichloroethylene, in ground water beneath its distribution center in the 600 block of Hanover Pike.
Thomas E. Lynch III, a Frederick attorney who is representing Black and Decker, said yesterday that he was disappointed by Judge Ross' decision to delay the appeal hearing.
"We want this hearing to go forward," Mr. Lynch said. "The hearing has been scheduled for several months, and we are trying to begin the process of remediation [of the contamination]."
The permit allows the company to pump up to 432,000 gallons per day during a year with average rainfall -- more than the 300,000 gallons drawn from the ground daily by the rest of the town of 3,000 people.
The Hewletts worry that massive pumping by Black and Decker could cause the well that supplies their home to become contaminated or to dry up.
They are promising a fight at next month's hearing.
"I'm going to do some yelling," Mr. Hewlett said. "They might have to lock me up."
Without the testimony of water experts from local government, the couple acknowledges, the odds against launching a successful challenge to the Fortune 500 company, one of the county's top 10 taxpayers at roughly $300,000 last year, have grown even longer.
"Black and Decker is big and rich, but we're not giving up," Mr. Hewlett says,
The Hewletts' is not the only challenge Black and Decker is likely to face from Hampstead residents. Several neighbors say they will voice complaints at a hearing at 7:30 p.m. Thursday about the company's request for a water discharge permit.
If granted, the permit would allow Black and Decker to dump into Deep Run hundreds of thousands of gallons of water the company says will have been cleansed of contaminants.
But residents are deeply suspicious of Black and Decker because the company has been unwilling to disclose details of its pumping and treatment plans.
In addition, some people claim the company is responsible for the contamination of nearby residential wells.
"What I'm concerned about is if that stuff gets in the ground water, our property isn't worth anything," says Derrick Garland, who lives a half mile from the distribution plant, on family land in the 4000 block of a dirt road, Doss Garland Drive, named after his grandfather.