Protecting the Piney Run

Carroll County: Chiller required to cool Hampstead plant discharge

bi-county land use talks needed.

February 18, 2000

A FEDERAL judge has confirmed what Carroll County officials have long known: The Hampstead waste treatment plant is polluting the Piney Run with its effluent.

The county will pay $400,000 in fines for repeated violation of the Clean Water Act, plus the legal fees for Baltimore County landowners who brought the suit.

The Hampstead plant's discharge was too hot to sustain trout in the Piney Run system, which flows into Baltimore County.

Carroll County officials have recognized the temperature problem, and installed shading for settling ponds to prevent direct sunlight warming. They also built a meandering outfall designed to cool the discharged water.

But experts have said that an electric refrigeration system is needed to solve the problem. Carroll has delayed installation, partly because of the pending lawsuit and partly because of the equipment's costs.

With 290 documented violations, this is not a rare occurrence.

Underlying the legal battle is an enduring conflict about the future of these borderlands.

Baltimore County's vision is for rural land use in this area. Carroll County sees it as desirable land for growth, because it's next to existing towns along the county's eastern boundary.

Carroll wants to expand the treatment plant's capacity, to serve a larger residential and business development; that plan is also opposed by Baltimore City, owner of the Liberty Reservoir.

While each jurisdiction can make its own land-use policy, these decisions can collide disastrously in the ecological systems that straddle both sides of the political boundary.

Carroll should proceed with installing the chiller, even though it is appealing the judge's ruling. But the greater imperative is for both counties to work together on a compromise that ensures integrity of the landscape while permitting reasonable development.

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