County Executive Charles I. Ecker has decided to build a $700,000 water tower in Marriottsville where it's most needed: on the western edge of the Alpha Ridge Landfill, in sight of homes closest to the dump's worst ground water pollution.
Mr. Ecker chose the site for the 140-foot tower Sunday over a location on the grounds of Mount View Middle School on Route 99, about a mile west of the landfill, where tower construction was estimated to cost $200,000 less. His decision was announced late Tuesday.
A third site, on private property between the landfill and Sand Hill Road, was ruled out earlier by public works officials in favor of the two publicly owned sites.
Area residents have fought for public water ever since they learned that ground water deep below the 15-year-old landfill was contaminated with cancer-causing solvents.
But public water required a tower, and debate over where to put it prompted deep resentment between residents of the two communities that might lie in its shadow.
Residents near Mount View Middle School -- the site favored by some public works engineers as cheaper and more efficient than the landfill site -- said at a meeting April 5 that they didn't want their expensive neighborhood marred by the tower.
Landfill area residents said they have one eyesore too many in their neighborhood and already were suffering because of the threat of pollution in their well water.
Mr. Ecker said yesterday that he took such views into consideration, but "there was as many against it on one site as the other."
He said he chose the landfill site because of potential problems with the Mount View site.
Unlike the landfill site, he said, the school site does not belong to county government.
"We'd have to go to the school board to get permission to put it [the tower] there. It's their site," said Mr. Ecker, who recently has been sparring with the board over school construction financing.
The school site also would have been problematic because the tower would have been built at the edge of the school's ball field, limiting possible expansion, Mr. Ecker said.
The executive's decision angered Jack Faulkner, who lives near the landfill's northwestern corner and drinks bottled water for fear of contamination in well water.
He charged that the decision was prompted by complaints from the Spring Valley Chase subdivision next to Mount View Middle School
"It may be visible from their house, but it's not going to be sitting on a mountain of trash," he said. "I feel that the people around here that have been fighting it the longest are going to pay for it the most."
Although he said he thought it was unfair to subject the community to additional hardship, Mr. Faulkner said he'd welcome the tower in his front yard if that's what it took to assure clean water.
The tower, which will store about 300,000 gallons, is part of a $10 million project to bring county water to about 600 properties near the landfill.
Engineers expect construction of the tower to begin by early next year.