Pushing on at Piney Run

Carroll County: Sewage treatment plant needs to cool discharge to stream before expanding.

April 11, 2000

DESPITE a court order that forced Carroll County to clean up its treated sewage discharge to the Piney Run, the state has issued a permit to almost double the permitted discharge into the environmentally sensitive trout stream.

The Maryland Department of Environment permit requires monitoring of stream temperatures and sets a 68-degree limit for the wastewater entering the Piney Run. Since Carroll County has repeatedly ignored water-temperature violations at Piney Run -- at least 290 times in recent years, by the judge's finding -- there's a serious question of enforcement here.

The court action, which resulted in $400,000 in fines for the county, was brought by private residents, not by the ever-compliant state environment department. In fact, MDE complained that it did not enforce the temperature standard for discharges into 50 trout streams in Maryland.

Carroll has an available solution for decreasing the temperature of the discharge. A $1 million chiller could be installed at the Hampstead plant. That apparatus could cool a large daily discharge of the plant's treated sewage.

Instead of funding more legal appeals, the county ought to accept its responsibility to the environment and to the Liberty Reservoir watershed that it uses. It ought to cool down the plant discharge with a chiller.

Once that good faith has been demonstrated, meaningful debate can proceed on higher amounts of effluent from the Hampstead treatment facility and any state permit conditions.

Admittedly, that involves a difference in outlook on growth for the border between Carroll and Baltimore counties. Carroll sees it as a growth area near existing communities; Baltimore County views it as a rural open-space area. Constructive dialogue on those differences is needed.

But that should not release Carroll from remedying the thermal pollution problem that affects brown trout in the small waters of Piney Run.

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