State refuses to review Piney Run project

Water plant requires agency's OK

Carroll proceeds with plans

November 20, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Department of the Environment has told Carroll County it will not review the design of a proposed $14 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Lake in Sykesville, a vital step in the construction permit process.

"The state will not review the project," Rich McIntyre, spokesman for MDE, said yesterday. "Building such a facility is inconsistent with the county's own master plan for water."

What effect the state's refusal will have on construction of the treatment plant remains to be seen.

Chronic water shortages

The state would not look at preliminary plans in the spring, but Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Robin Bartlett Frazier continued to move ahead with the plant. They see the plant as the solution to chronic water shortages in South Carroll, the county's most populous area.

Frazier and Dell signed deeds yesterday that the county easements to properties needed to widen and pave Hollenberry Road, which leads to the site of the proposed plant.

They awarded a $418,000 contract for Hollenberry Road construction last month to C.J. Miller, a Hampstead builder, and spent about $50,000 to buy easements.

Legal fees

The county also has paid more than $11,000 in legal fees to an attorney providing advice in the permitting process.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge withheld her signature from the deeds yesterday, continuing her opposition to the plant and related expenditures.

Preliminary work - grading, sediment control and removing utility poles - will begin next week on Hollenberry Road. It could provide access to the plant or, with the state's consistent opposition, it could be a road to nowhere.

"I spoke with Virginia Kearney at MDE a few weeks ago, and she told me she will not look at the plans," Doug Myers, county director of public works, said yesterday. "We won't get a formal letter saying that until we submit the plans."

Avoiding a mixed message

Kearney, deputy director of the water management administration at MDE, does not want to send a mixed message by reviewing documents for a project the state opposes, McIntyre said.

"Essentially, the public works director is correct," McIntyre said. "Virginia Kearney has repeatedly stated the state's position on the plant."

The county has paid Black and Veatch, a Gaithersburg engineering company, nearly $500,000 to revise the original plans for the plant, which were shelved six years ago. The contract stipulates the company must negotiate for a state construction permit.

Assistance offered by state

The state has written to the county twice stating its opposition to the project and offering its assistance with alternatives such as a series of wells and expanding the county's existing treatment plant at Liberty Reservoir.

"We are still going ahead with the plant and working on amendments to the water master plan," said Myers. "Those should be ready for the planning commission next month."

Construction on Hollenberry Road will begin about April 1 with a July 26 completion date, Myers said. The work includes installing a parallel water pipeline from the proposed plant to a water main on Obrecht Road.

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