Plan unveiled to discharge school's sewage on farm

Commissioners applaud solution to permit woes

May 05, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

A plan to discharge treated sewage from Francis Scott Key High School onto a nearby dairy farm was unveiled before Carroll County commissioners yesterday by a New Windsor consultant.

The commissioners immediately lauded the idea of David T. Duree, president of Advance Systems, as an inexpensive way to correct a costly error by the county Board of Education. The school board built the $800,000 wastewater treatment plant last year to replace its aging septic system, but failed to obtain state construction and discharge permits.

County officials will soon meet with the landowners, Rodney and Melanie Stambaugh, to discuss details of the system that will discharge up to 7,000 gallons per day of treated sewage onto an unused field on their dairy farm.

Duree pledged to handle the public information campaign and public hearings for the county. His company was paid $55,000 for handling the overall design and permitting process. The Stambaughs said yesterday they approved of the plan.

"It's the logical way to do it," Mrs. Stambaugh said, adding she met with Duree earlier this week to hear plan details.

"The area of the discharge is a dried-up wetland -- this is the way of getting it back. And this is going to be better for the wetlands, too," she said.

Duree said the plan will cost taxpayers $263,000 -- including his fee -- and take just over a year to implement. It was designed with biological engineers from the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension and could be used as a living classroom after it is in operation, Duree said.

"It makes sense for everybody," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "After it is treated, we're putting better water into the stream than the stream has already."

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge said: "I think it's fantastic. It's an innovative system."

Duree outlined another plan to install a subsurface irrigation system on county-owned land near the now-closed Bark Hill Landfill a mile from the school. However, he did not recommend it because it was too costly and required a ground water discharge permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment. That plan would cost $512,000, officials said.

The treatment plant at Francis Scott Key High School is sitting idle while the school's sewage is being hauled daily to Westminster's treatment plant at an annual cost of $110,000. Last month, public pressure about the botched permit process led school officials to shift responsibility for the high school plant to county engineers, who also run wastewater treatment plants at Runnymede Elementary School and South Carroll High School.

The Stambaughs placed their farm in a county agricultural preservation easement in 1990. If the plan is approved to dispose of the waste on their property, it will also require approval of the Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation, a state board that approves the easements.

The couple is embroiled in a dispute with school officials after construction workers destroyed part of the Stambaugh's 1,000- foot 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. 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.

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