State offers alternate proposal for waste plant

Hampstead plan's impact on Piney Run area feared

February 18, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

Six months after the Court of Special Appeals rejected a move to allow an increase of 400,000 gallons per day in sewage discharge from the Hampstead Wastewater Treatment Plant, state environmental officials are considering a plan to allow the increase -- with strict temperature regulations.

Officials of the Maryland Department of the Environment outlined the plan at a public meeting and hearing yesterday on the proposal to allow the plant to discharge up to 900,000 gallons of effluent daily.

A final decision is expected within a month.

The state's proposal is the latest move in a battle between Carroll County officials and a group of preservationists from Baltimore County over the sewage treatment plant -- located in an area of dense development, yet next door to rural homesteads that flank the trout-rich Piney Run watershed.

Piney Run flows into Western Run, part of the Gunpowder Falls watershed, the source of drinking water for about 1.5 million metropolitan Baltimore residents.

Carroll County officials have for years sought to increase the amount of effluent the plant can discharge each day as the town of Hampstead has grown. Those efforts have been met with bitter protest from Baltimore County neighbors, who say flow from the plant has caused erosion and other environmental damage.

Last summer, the Court of Special Appeals nullified an attempt by Carroll County to increase its allowed daily flow after the court faulted MDE for failing to consider water temperature in granting a permit modification. The matter was remanded to MDE to conduct tests to determine the impact the added discharge would have on water temperature.

One month later, the Piney Run Preservation Association filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore against the Carroll County commissioners, alleging violations of the federal Clean Water Act. A trial has been scheduled for November, G. Macy Nelson, attorney for the Piney Run Preservation Association, said yesterday.

During yesterday's meeting, MDE officials proposed establishing a new temperature threshold for the plant, which Jeffrey L. Rein, deputy program manager for the department's wastewater permit program, said fits "tighter standards" -- and voids the court's mandate.

Carroll officials have agreed to install a $1 million refrigerator tank at the plant to cool the treated sewage before it is flushed out, said Mike Evans, county director of the Department of Public Works.

" We'll be fully meeting the requirement with this," Rein said.

Nelson disagreed. "They've got a legal obligation to comply now -- and they're not," he said.

Today, the plant discharges an average of 545,000 gallons of effluent per day into the stream, county public works officials say.

Pub Date: 2/18/99

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