Consensus nearer on waste plant

Councilman backs plan for small facility at Glenelg High

School seeks to expand

Foes fear system would pollute water, hurt land values

July 17, 2000|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A consensus may be developing on one of Howard County's thorniest school expansion problems - how to add 400 seats at Glenelg High School without overwhelming the marginal septic system.

County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican who represents the western area where the school is, said in a recent letter to the school board that he favors building a small wastewater treatment plant at the high school - an option rejected last fall by school officials but getting a long second look. Kittleman opposes taking land by condemnation to expand the school's septic field or building the $2 million plant at nearby Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School - the original plan.

The school board is to make a final decision on the project July 27. Board Vice Chairman Jane B. Schuchardt said she had not seen Kittleman's letter and has not decided what solution she favors at Glenelg. Chairman Sandra H. French is out of the country and unavailable for comment. The opening of the planned addition has been delayed a year - until 2002 - because of the dispute over how to treat the wastewater.

Glenelg, the county's westernmost high school, is caught between Howard County's policy to keep the western county rural by not extending water and sewer lines and the need to expand high school capacities to prepare for growing enrollments.

Critics of the small wastewater plant concept say they fear such plants could start popping up all over the western county, threatening the purity of local well water and high property values.

School board member Stephen C. Bounds also favors the Glenelg plant option. And community opposition leader Albert DeRemegis said: "I'm not going to fight them if they decide to build it there. People would probably support that decision."

DeRemegis and other opponents stress that they don't like the idea of building wastewater treatment plants, but say that if a plant is unavoidable, they'd rather have one at the high school than anywhere else.

"If they're going to do that [build a plant] then they ought to leave the problem where it starts," said Frederic Tomarchio who, like most vocal opponents of the plant, lives near Triadelphia Elementary - where the plant was originally to be built.

Mae B. Musgrove, the 90-year-old former teacher whose farm provided the original land for the high school in 1957, said she's "very glad" to hear Kittleman's position.

That's because she refuses to sell another 20 acres of her family farm to allow the school's septic field to expand. Her family has sold land to the county three times over the years to benefit the school.

The big unanswered question, school officials said, is how strongly the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission would oppose having 36,000 gallons a day of treated wastewater emptying into creeks that eventually drain into the Triadelphia Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to thousands of WSSC customers in Howard and Montgomery counties.

Spokeswoman Liz Kalinowski said the WSSC has merely said it would prefer not having the plant empty into the reservoir watershed. Howard buys 5 million gallons a day from the WSSC, and the reservoir serves 650,000 customers out of the agency's total of 1.5 million.

Kittleman noted in his letter that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has for 20 years operated a small wastewater plant that drains into the reservoir, so another one, with newer technology, should not cause a problem.

And Sydney L. Cousin, associate county school superintendent, said the board could authorize the plant at Glenelg and then have the treated water piped to a nonreservoir farm stream near Triadelphia Elementary to avoid that problem.

His staff is finalizing cost estimates for the options, he said, and he will present them with his recommendation at the board meeting.

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