Public water link suggested for Pasadena

Debate continues over radium problem

April 10, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The state is suggesting public water as a possible long-term solution for Pasadena residents who have radium in their well water - renewing the debate over whether connecting the peninsula to public water would bring unwanted development.

In a letter to a member of Citizens Against Radium Poisoning, Jane T. Nishida, state secretary of the environment, wrote that the Maryland Department of the Environment is committed to working with the county to evaluate the costs and benefits of providing public water to the Pasadena peninsula.

"Although the costs of public water are roughly estimated to be more than two to three times the cost for a well and treatment or drilling a deeper well, we believe that public water is a possible long-term solution for residents in your community," Nishida wrote late last month to Linda Pogue, the group's spokeswoman.

Members of the group, a coalition of residents, were ecstatic.

"How do you spell `hooray'?" said William DeLawder, the group's founder.

The statement rejuvenates the hopes of those fighting for public water, but Pasadena residents have long been divided over whether public water should be extended down the peninsula from where it ends at Lake Shore Plaza - which would cost millions. Supporters say it's the ideal solution to radium in well water, while opponents fear public water would draw more development and believe water treatment systems on private wells are sufficient.

"I think [the letter] is the opening bell on a very long, protracted fight by those who want it and those who don't," said Lester Ettlinger, chairman of the Pasadena Citizens Task Force on Radium in Well Water.

County Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy said yesterday that she was "amazed" at MDE's response. She said elected officials are taking steps to make well water treatment systems, which can cost from $500 to $1,500, affordable. She pointed out a proposal by Del. John R. Leopold, a Pasadena Republican, that would help residents buy radium filtration systems and has been approved as part of the state budget.

Murphy said she is waiting for the residents' task force to submit its study and recommendation to her this summer before she decides how to pursue the issue of radium, a naturally occurring carcinogen associated with bone tumors.

County Fire Division Chief John M. Scholz, acting county spokesman, said the Department of Public Works is working closely with residents to assess their needs and determine how they want to approach the problem.

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