Activists sue over Hampstead water plant Balto. County group says facility violates U.S. law

September 23, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

A group of rural Baltimore County residents has gone to federal court in a continuing battle against the Hampstead Wastewater Treatment Plant -- across the line in Carroll County, where development continues.

The Piney Run Preservation Association filed a citizens' lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against the Carroll County Commissioners. It alleges violations of federal Clean Water Act and seeks an injunction, fines and court costs.

The suit notes that the headwaters of Piney Run are at the two counties' border and says the association's interests are in protecting trout, drinking water and recreation on the waters.

Alleging that the treatment plant heats the water, the lawsuit asks the federal court to order the county to stop operating the plant in violation of a state permit, pay civil penalties for each day of violation of the permit, and award court costs, and witness and consultant fees.

Piney Run flows into Western Run, part of the Gunpowder Falls watershed, which contains trout streams and supplies the drinking water for about 1.5 million residents of metropolitan Baltimore.

In separate legal action at the state level, the Piney Run association prevailed last month in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals -- successfully challenging a permit from the state Department of the Environment that authorized Carroll County to increase the plant's capacity to the maximum 900,000 gallons a day.

The appellate court sent the case back to Baltimore County Circuit Court, saying a judge's ruling last fall had not fully dealt with the association's claim that the increased discharge raised water temperatures to a level that would threaten fish.

That decision probably will not be appealed, said J. Michael Evans, Carroll County's director of public works. He said he hoped the state and county already have enough data on the temperature of the discharged treated water.

The county has been given incremental increases since 1990 but is nearing the previously allowed 700,000-gallon limit. Evans said the county had not received a copy of the federal suit.

Pub Date: 9/23/98

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