Engineers finish third of plant design

Environmental agency must approve the project

October 11, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Engineering consultants hired by Carroll County have completed about a third of the design for the proposed $14 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Lake in Sykesville, but they have yet to meet with the Maryland Department of the Environment, which must approve the project.

The department refused to meet with the engineers in August, preferring to wait for the state's meeting Sept. 6 with the Carroll commissioners. The commissioners canceled that session and have not rescheduled.

Doug Myers, director of public works, told the commissioners yesterday that he has asked again for a meeting to review designs with the Department of the Environment, but has had no response.

As part of its $418,000 contract, Black & Veatch, a Gaithersburg engineering company, also is to assist Carroll in securing a construction permit. The county has spent about $1 million on the plant, even though the state has denied a permit for its construction.

"Typically, we meet with MDE in the pre-design phase and they tell us what they want," Myers said. "We have had no meeting and have done 30 percent of the work. But, we should not be miles apart. They have approved the old plans."

Black & Veatch designed a larger Piney Run plant - with a daily capacity of 6 million gallons - about 10 years ago. The contract awarded last spring calls for a revision, scaling the plant down to 3 million gallons a day.

Myers expects completed plans by the end of the year. "The plans would definitely have to be turned in to MDE, when they are done in December," Myers said.

The department has twice written to the commissioners saying it will not issue a construction permit for the project, which the state calls inconsistent with Carroll's master plan for water. Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier see the plant as a way to increase the water supply in South Carroll. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge favors drilling more wells and an expansion of Freedom Water Treatment Plant on Liberty Reservoir, but her colleagues consistently outvote her.

In other action yesterday, the commissioners decided to increase security at the Freedom plant, which provides water for nearly 2 million people in the area. The county will install an electronic gate and repair fencing. "For our own safety, we have to make our plants more secure," Gouge said.

The commissioners discussed a tentative legislative agenda for the 2002 legislative session.

Dell and Frazier said that, pending support from the county Farm Bureau and other counties in Western Maryland, they might ask that nutrient management requirements for farmers be eased.

The state requires farmers to test their soil regularly and maintain strict limits on certain nutrients, many linked to manure or fertilizer. The laws are designed to prevent harmful runoff into streams that ultimately flow into the Chesapeake Bay and other large water sources. But the documentation requirements are onerous for overworked farmers, said Dell, who is a dairy farmer.

The state should give farmers more time to meet standards or provide more manpower to help them test and document nutrient levels, he and Frazier said.

"Eliminating the nutrient management program altogether would be the best thing," Dell added, acknowledging that such a scenario is unlikely.

Sun staff writer Childs Walker contributed to this article.

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