Commissioners receive treatment plant plans

Piney Run proposal opposed by state agency, residents

South Carroll

January 04, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Encased in a 1-foot-thick binder, construction plans for the Piney Run water treatment plant - a $13 million project that cannot proceed without state approval - were presented to the county commissioners yesterday.

The plans were prepared by Black and Veatch, a Gaithersburg engineering company whose nearly $500,000 contract with the county includes procurement of a construction permit.

"We are paying Black and Veatch to get us a permit and they better darn well do it," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said.

The county is moving forward with the project despite the state Department of the Environment's refusal to discuss as much as predesign plans. MDE typically meets with engineers at the outset of a project and works with them throughout the design. That has not occurred with Piney Run.

Dell and Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier - who is out of the country - contend the plant is necessary to maintain adequate water supply in populous South Carroll. Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge opposes the project.

With the binder, the county received 176 pages of drawings and a 30-page memo detailing changes to the original plan scrapped about five years ago. All documents will be forwarded to the state.

Doug Myers, county director of public works, phoned MDE yesterday to tell officials that the plans were coming.

"We can send these plans to MDE, but my opinion is they are not going to look at them," Myers told the commissioners yesterday. "I am not optimistic, but we'll take this one step at a time."

Myers said Black and Veatch would tryto secure a building permit, but he was uncertain what the county can do legally if those attempts fail.

"I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to that point," he said.

Twice MDE has written to the county saying it would not issue a construction permit for a plant that is "not in compliance with Carroll's water and sewer master plan."

"That sentence is really vague and has been interpreted differently by a lot of people," Myers said. "MDE has said they will not meet with us. It would be leading us on the wrong path after they have said we cannot build."

County planners have revised the water and sewer plan and included language on the new plant - amendments that have won approval from the county planning commission. Officials expect to schedule a public hearing on the changes next month.

The state did not have a pre-design meeting with county engineers, as is usual for such projects, and has not discussed the Piney Run plant with Carroll officials, other than to say that it will not approve the project.

"We are on the right track with this project," Dell said. "We are trying to serve the public's needs."

Dell and Frazier voted 18 months ago to build the plant to ease the persistent water shortages that affect South Carroll, the county's most populous area with about 30,000 residents. Gouge has voted against the plant in favor of a system of wells and the expansion of the Freedom plant on Liberty Reservoir.

Although South Carroll is looking at another water ban as early as Memorial Day weekend, residents have not taken to the Piney Run option and the state consistently has opposed it.

"Right now we are spinning our wheels and losing ground," Myers said. "We don't have enough water for the summer peaks and there is no way around a water ban."

The commissioners also approved buying a $20,000 flow meter to determine amounts of waste from septic tanks that contractors are hauling to the county plant in Westminster. Haulers will pay 4 cents for every gallon emptied into the county treatment system.

Inaccuracies in amounts have led to a $100,000 deficit in the system, said Gene Curfman, county comptroller.

"We think that only about 50 percent of what goes through the plant is recorded," Curfman said. "The meter can show us where the differences are coming from. The system services the whole county, millions of gallons annually and we have to get an accurate count."

The county has added a permit status system to its Web page, allowing residents and builders to determine where a project is in the development review process. Since the system started Dec. 7, it has had 337 inquiries, officials said.

"This is allowing people to get information without taking time away from county staff," Dell said.

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