Carroll board awaits report on school plant

Study expected Friday will discuss safe method to dispose of sewage

April 27, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

A report detailing an environmentally safe way to dispose of sewage at Francis Scott Key High School is due Friday to the Carroll County commissioners, who are concerned about the costs of waste disposal there.

County public works Director J. Michael Evans told the commissioners yesterday that the $4,500 report will conclude whether a bacteria-killing, environmentally safe method of disposing sewage at the school is a feasible alternative.

The commissioners are expected to consider the report and cost estimates of the plan next week.

The high school's sewage problems began after school officials built the $800,000 wastewater treatment plant last year to replace its aging septic system but failed to obtain state construction and discharge permits.

While the plant sits idle, the school's sewage is being hauled daily to Westminster's treatment plant at an annual taxpayer cost of $110,000, a cost the commissioners are trying to lasso as they prepare next year's budget.

This month, intense public pressure led school officials to shift responsibility for the high school plant to county engineers, who ordered the study. The county's Bureau of Utilities manages wastewater treatment plants at Runnymede Elementary School and South Carroll High School.

"They are actively working on the project," Evans said of the consultants, Advanced Systems of New Windsor. "They've done test boring and have looked at the plant."

Advanced Systems, which specializes in wastewater treatment systems, is working on the project with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension.

The study will assess the feasibility and costs of treating the sludge with a process that kills the bacteria, allowing treated water to be used for irrigation. The solid part of the waste would be compacted and buried in a landfill.

If such an irrigation system is not possible, Advanced Systems will consider a plan to discharge the effluent into Little Pipe Creek near Route 75 and Ladiesburg Road.

That plan would require pipe extensions costing an estimated $170,000 and would take about 18 months to complete. During that time, the county would have to pay about $162,000 to continue to haul the sewage.

In addition, school officials could be fined for defying state regulations and sued by residents who are demanding that the plant be dismantled.

The high school has also been the target of complaints from a family that owns a 74-acre dairy farm adjacent to the high school. Workers destroyed part of the family's 1,000-foot-long driveway and knocked down a stand of pine trees during the $16 million expansion of the school.

Family members must drive through the school parking lot and bus turnaround to reach their home.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier said yesterday that the board plans to meet with Melanie and Rodney Stambaugh to discuss the issue, which school officials acknowledged was a mistake.

The Stambaughs say they are considering legal action.

The woes at Francis Scott Key High mark the latest in a string of troubled school projects in Carroll, which has undertaken $106 million in school construction projects to meet enrollment increases from rapid sprawl over the past decade.

Since raising taxes four years ago to pay for the schools, four of the first five projects have gone a total of more than $2 million over budget.

Pub Date: 4/27/99

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