No progress in plans for wastewater

Glenelg High addition delayed by search for treatment plant site

Land testing refused

Opposition voices concerns about contamination, odor

Glenelg

May 21, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Six months of searching for a better way to treat wastewater for a planned 400-seat addition to Glenelg High School have produced nothing but frustration for county officials and their critics.

No progress has been made toward obtaining land for an improved Glenelg High septic system, and residents oppose building a wastewater treatment plant for the school.

The addition will be delayed, "at a minimum until the 2002 school year," said Sidney L. Cousin, associate county school superintendent.

Cousin said the county could not win permission to test land next to Glenelg for an expanded septic field because the owners refused to permit it. Attempts to seize the land by legal condemnation could take much longer.

Because Glenelg is in western Howard, outside the area served by public water and sewer, the county must find a way to handle waste before building the addition. The 1957 school's septic system is marginal and can't handle more students, officials say.

Glenelg is projected to enroll 1,073 students next school year -- 132 overcapacity.

The other options involve building a wastewater treatment plant behind the high school -- which would drain into Triadelphia Reservoir -- or at nearby Triadelphia Ridge Elementary -- the plan that riled neighbors last fall.

The school board has scheduled a public hearing at 7: 30 p.m. Thursday.

Cousin said school officials worry that if they propose building the plant behind Glenelg, Washington area governments might complain because they use the water in Triadelphia Reservoir.

Chuck Brown, spokesman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, said his group is "concerned" about such a plant "discharging upstream from our reservoir."

The commission provides drinking water to 650,000 customers in Prince George's and Montgomery counties, he said, and sells 5 million gallons a day in southern Howard.

But the alternative plan -- building a plant behind Triadelphia Ridge Elementary -- raised a ruckus among nearby Howard residents.

"We plan to fight until the bitter end," said Albert J. DeRemegis, opposition leader.

He said he fears that any treatment plant, no matter how small, will open the way for developers to build more homes in the western county, not to mention potential odors or leaks.

Cousin has said the proposed $2 million, 36,000-gallon-per-day plant the county first suggested would not produce bad odors. Solid waste would be trucked to the county's main treatment plant in Savage. The brick structure would be mainly underground and, if built at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary, would empty clean water into a farm stream that doesn't feed into any reservoir.

Those assurances haven't carried weight with the residents.

"I don't want the plant because I think it sets a precedent, and then things will be popping up all over the place," DeRemegis said. "What's to stop them 10 years from now saying, `We're not going to build a sewer line, but we'll let you hook into this plant'?"

County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican who represents the area, said he can't imagine the 3-acre residential zoning around the school being changed -- especially because the zoning board is composed of council members.

"My highest priority is to get that school addition done," Kittleman said. "I'd like to see some way we can build a septic field and have nobody be upset."

Glenelg PTA President Thomas L. Bianco said: "Somebody's going to have to bite the bullet. We can't just continue to stand in limbo."

Bianco said that as high school enrollments increase countywide, Glenelg would become crowded.

"The pressure is on the county, the school board and the [County] Council to reach some kind of resolution in order to not adversely affect any other high schools," he said.

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