Waste plant causes debate Residents appeal F.S. Key plan, stalling renovations

State had OK'd project

Sewage to be hauled away from school in new arrangement

July 26, 1998|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Neighborhood opposition to a newly built sewage disposal plant at Francis Scott Key High School has forced school officials to work out a costly arrangement to keep a $16.3 million renovation and expansion project at the school on schedule.

Under an alternative plan approved by the Carroll County Health Department, the school system will temporarily be allowed to haul raw sewage from Francis Scott Key near Uniontown to the Westminster wastewater treatment plant.

School officials received preliminary state approval in April to discharge an average of 17,000 gallons a day of treated septic waste into an unnamed tributary of Little Pipe Creek.

Residents concerned about environmental issues appealed the decision to the state Office of Administrative Hearings. The challenge has threatened to stall the renovation because the school system cannot proceed with the original sewage disposal plan until the appeal is resolved.

The interim solution adds $140,000 a year to the school's renovation project, said Vernon F. Smith, assistant superintendent of administration for schools.

In a letter to the county Health Department seeking approval of the temporary plan, Superintendent William H. Hyde wrote: "The costs from construction delays from either school closure or termination of construction contracts are far greater than providing wastewater treatment on an interim basis for either a few more months or several years."

"It solves a number of issues for us," said Kathleen Sanner, director of school support services. "We were stagnant in our construction project; without getting rid of the existing septic fields, we could not complete site work around the renovation," including construction of a bus loop and driveways.

A key component of the construction project is replacement of the school's inadequate 40-year-old septic system, in which wastewater flows into a series of underground rock fields.

School officials have been working since May to address the sewage disposal issue. That is when a group of seven residents appealed the Maryland Department of the Environment's approval of a school system plan to discharge treated septic waste from Francis Scott Key High into the Little Pipe Creek tributary.

According to the original plan, the sewage from the school would be treated at the new wastewater treatment plant at Francis Scott Key. A pipeline was supposed to carry the waste to the stream across properties on Bark Hill and Hoff roads.

'Wouldn't trust them'

Julian Stein, one of the Hoff Road property owners who filed the appeal, questioned whether the waste can be treated effectively.

"It's their own little plant and I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them," he said.

Stein criticized school officials for not notifying residents individually of the proposed sewage disposal plan. State environment officials agreed that two notices of the discharge permit application in a newspaper were inadequate.

"Last fall, we saw piles of pipe and chalk marks on our driveways, and we said, 'What's this?' " said Stein. "They said, 'We're going to take sewage and drop it into your stream,' and we said, 'We don't think so.' "

'No measurable effect'

In its April approval of the discharge permit, the state Department of the Environment stated that, "with the strict permit limitations, there will be no measurable effect on the life in the stream, or on the health of any people who come in contact with it."

The school system has similar systems at Runnymede Elementary School and South Carroll High School.

In the Francis Scott Key project, Smith said, "this approach was deemed to be the most expedient, cost-effective and most acceptable."

The interim plan -- developed in response to the residents' appeal -- will require the school system to haul raw sewage from the new intake tank at the school to be treated at the Westminster wastewater treatment plant.

School officials are looking into other methods of discharging the treated sewage.

Pub Date: 7/26/98

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