Governor's aid sought on permits

County commissioners lobbying to advance well, sewage projects

May 16, 2000|By Brenda J. Buote | Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

The county commissioners are lobbying Gov. Parris N. Glendening to help secure state permits for two projects that have long been on the drawing board -- a well to ease water shortages in South Carroll and a new discharge system for Francis Scott Key High School's idle sewage treatment plant.

"These projects cannot move forward until we get permits" from the Maryland Department of the Environment, J. Michael Evans, county director of public works, told the commissioners yesterday. Evans urged the commissioners to ask the governor's office "to make MDE get off the dime."

Department of the Environment officials said yesterday that they are working on the county's permit applications.

"We're just being careful, making sure we're looking at these things properly," said Dane Bauer, deputy director of the Environment Department's water programs.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge contacted the governor's office Friday to check the status of the well permit. The board expects to hear from the state tomorrow.

"The well is an important part of the relief plan for the Liberty plant," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell. "We'd like to get going on it as quickly as possible."

The well, on property owned by Fairhaven Retirement Community, was supposed to be operational by Memorial Day.

Design work has been completed, and the project is going to bid. The holdup in the plan -- a state construction permit -- is sitting on a desk at the Environment Department, Evans said.

"At this point, we're at least 12 weeks behind where we need to be," Evans said. "We're going to have to pray for a lot of cool weather and rain."

The state advertised its intention to issue a permit in March but has not taken action.

"We need to be sure the well's yields are sustainable, even during high-stress periods," Bauer said. "Carroll has a history of poor yields."

Evans said the well planned for a 3-acre site leased from Fairhaven could provide as much as 340,000 gallons of water a day, an amount that exceeds 10 percent of the county's daily draw from Liberty Reservoir.

County officials have long predicted that the well would be working by Memorial Day. There is usually a high demand for water over the holiday weekend.

Residents in South Carroll, the county's most populous area, have suffered through water bans each of the past three summers. The Fairhaven well would provide a safety net for the county during times of peak demand.

Without the well, South Carroll's 28,000 residents could face another summer of water restrictions. Forecasters predict another dry spell that could become another drought.

The commissioners are sending the governor a packet of information about the proposed discharge system at Francis Scott Key High School in hopes of securing Department of the Environment permits.

Evans has suggested that the county release treated sewage into 3 acres of wooded wetlands. Plans call for laying about 3,000 feet of pipe to dry stream beds, which would act as conduits for the treated water.

The school system hauls as much as 7,000 gallons of sewage a day from the Uniontown school to the wastewater treatment plant at Runnymede Elementary. The hauling costs the school board about $5,600 a month.

The commissioners are trying to salvage a project botched by the school board. Construction of an $800,000 treatment plant was halted in 1998 when it was discovered that school officials had not obtained required state environmental and construction permits.

"We won't have a solution by the upcoming school year," Evans told the commissioners.

He could not say when the project would be completed. The state's review could drag on for several years.

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