Environmentalist halts pumping into stream Contractor planned to dump muddy water

January 08, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Monroe G. Haines, the self-appointed protector of a Westminster stream, stopped a contractor yesterday from pumping muddy water from a construction site into the run.

The 75-year-old environmental activist, who has made the cleanup of Longwell Run a personal crusade for 11 years, said he "got riled" when workers told him they were going to pump muddy water from a construction site into the stream, which flows along the northeast side of the site.

"That's when I said, 'No, you ain't!' " Haines said.

After he learned about the pumping plan yesterday, Haines pounded on the doors of Westminster City Hall at 8: 30 a.m. as the building was opened.

A Westminster Fire and Hose Company No. 1 station is being built on the John Street construction site.

Haines also contacted the Maryland Department of the Environment, which referred him to Carroll County officials. The county government is the local enforcement agency for sediment and storm water management regulations.

James E. Slater Jr., county environmental services administrator, said Haines' complaint was resolved by a county inspector and a representative of the concrete subcontractor without the need for a stop-work order.

Slater said the inspector halted plans to pump the water into the stream and directed the workers to build a pit lined with filter cloth to hold the water. The water had to be pumped out to allow pouring of a concrete foundation in an area below the ground-water table, Slater said.

Soil and sediment residues in the water from the pit will be filtered out as the water percolates through the ground before reaching the stream, Slater said. Sediment is harmful to fish and small aquatic animals.

Slater said the subcontractor's representatives were cooperative.

L "They stopped as soon as the inspector stopped by," he said.

The contractor, Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Baltimore, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The $3.2 million station is under construction on a 3.5-acre property, which was purchased by the fire company for $1.8 million in 1996. The company's historic station at 66 E. Main St. was inadequate to house new equipment, and traffic tie-ups became a problem as engines and ambulances pulled onto Main Street.

The volunteer firefighters hope to move into their new quarters in the fall.

Haines was at the site at 6 a.m. yesterday. He spends many hours at Longwell Run, checking construction or areas where he suspects people might be discharging substances into the water. The stream flows through Westminster to the Cranberry Branch, a source of drinking water for Westminster, and to the West Branch of the Patapsco River.

A loyal supporter of the fire company, Haines has donated $2,700 to the company during the past six years. The money came, he said, from environmental awards he received for his work, which has included hauling tons of trash and debris out of Longwell Run.

The Westminster stream, once one of the most severely degraded in Maryland, has been improved under a three-year, $600,000 state and federally funded project that will enter its final year in July.

Projects have included stabilizing the stream banks and creating a wetland on county property on South Center Street to reduce runoff into the stream.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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