Dozens of neighbors of the leaky Alpha Ridge landfill packed a Howard County Council hearing last night to urge officials to pay the entire cost of connecting more than 300 homes to a safe, new water system.
"We're not asking for a free lunch," said Mike Colson of Albeth Road in Marriottsville. "We just want safe drinking water for our kids."
The Alpha Ridge landfill has leaked toxic chemicals into nearby ground water for several years.
No residential well has yet shown verified contamination, but neighbors are convinced that contamination is inevitable, given the path that toxins already have followed.
"It's like a ticking time bomb," said James Monaghan of Ramsburg Road. "You never know when your well is going to be contam-inated."
Because of fears of contamination, Howard County is building an $11 million water system -- to be completed next spring -- that will replace the hundreds of individual wells that Marriottsville area residents now have.
But county officials still disagree about how much of the normal hook-up charges area residents should pay to connect to the new water system.
Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a Republican who represents the area, wants the county to pay the entire cost of hooking residents into the water system, about $4,100 for each of more than 300 homes for a total of $1.3 million. County Executive Charles I. Ecker, also a Republican, wants the county to split the cost nearly evenly with residents, saving the county about $600,000.
But area residents who spoke last night blamed the county for the contamination and want it to pay to fix the problem.
"We all know the history," said Sand Hill Road resident Scott Muller. "The county chose a bad site, scrimped on the design by omitting a liner system to save money, failed to monitor the waste stream and continued to dump on a unlined cell despite severe ground water contamination."
A moment later, Muller urged the council to pay the entire hook-up fee for residents: "It's the right thing to do. The county should accept responsibility for the mess."
Robert Sturgill, who built his home on Douglas Avenue in 1951, echoed the sentiment. "It's their responsibility," he said. "They caused this, and I think they should correct this at no cost to us."
Four of the five members of the County Council -- a majority strong enough to override an Ecker veto, if necessary -- favor paying all the hook-up costs for residents. The only opponent is Council Chairman Darrel E. Drown, an Ellicott City Republican. The council plans to vote on the issue at its Oct. 7 meeting.
Pub Date: 9/17/96