Piney Run opponents ask governor to help

Proposed facility defies Smart Growth, letter says

Carroll County

July 30, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Hoping to thwart a proposed $16 million water treatment plant at Piney Run Lake, a South Carroll citizens group is making another appeal -- this one to the Smart Growth sensibilities of Maryland's governor.

In a letter to Gov. Parris N. Glendening dated July 24, the Freedom Area Citizens Council said the state should not issue a construction permit for the plant because it runs counter to Smart Growth tenets and would spur more development in South Carroll.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed, but who knows what will happen?" said Ross Dangel, chairman of the unofficial group that serves as a liaison between the county and residents throughout Eldersburg and Sykesville. "Frankly, the governor has nothing to lose with Carroll and the law would be completely on his side. We are taking one last shot."

Glendening has intervened in several Carroll land-use decisions -- particularly those that would spur development of farmland -- issues that he said "struck at the heart" of his Smart Growth initiative to control growth. Dangel opened the letter with praise for Glendening's stance.

"Maryland's legacy as a protector of the environment and champion of Smart Growth may indeed be challenged if Carroll County is allowed to continue its pursuit of the water treatment plant," he wrote.

The Maryland Department of the Environment, which oversees the permitting process, has had the plant designs since January but has not moved the project forward. Two of Carroll's three commissioners say the plant is essential to augment the water supply in South Carroll.

Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier questioned yesterday the governor's authority with a construction permit. She also said she does not expect to see a permit during the Glendening administration.

"MDE is a regulatory agency and should act on its own," she said. "I doubt we will receive the permit until after the elections. We can wait. We are patient."

Rather than leave the decision "to the winds of politics," Dangel has asked the state to act promptly and send "a strong message to this and future Boards of Carroll County Commissioners, that protecting the environment and adhering to Smart Growth will continue to be rules that Maryland is governed by."

Glendening's press office said yesterday that they have not seen the letter. They will forward it to the governor and make his comments known, if he has any. The council has asked the governor to intercede before but not with an appeal to his Smart Growth initiative.

Development of concern

Opponents say the plant would adversely affect water quality at the 300-acre lake that is Carroll's premier recreation spot. A second plant would bring more development to South Carroll, the county's most-populated area with 30,000 residents, opponents say.

"It is our position that building a plant at Piney Run will result in the senseless destruction of a valued wildlife habitat and facilitate growth outside the designated Freedom priority funding area," Dangel wrote.

Frazier and Commissioner Donald I. Dell voted more than two years ago to move ahead with the plant that they both said was critical to easing persistent water shortages in South Carroll. The nearly 20,000 customers on the public water system are coping with another summer -- the fourth in the past six -- of restrictions on outdoor water use.

South Carroll relies on water drawn from Liberty Reservoir, which is owned by Baltimore. The county can draw up to 3 million gallons a day from the 44-billion gallon reservoir and treat it at its Freedom plant. Dell and Frazier claim a second plant at the county-owned Piney Run is essential. She and Dell repeatedly have outvoted attempts by Commission Julia Walsh Gouge to bring wells on line as a more immediate solution to the water woes.

"Actually, our letter contains nothing inflammatory," Dangel said. "It just lays out the environmental reasons with real statistics."

The letter detailed the environmental impact of the proposed plant and decried the county's lack of foresight.

"Carroll County has made no attempt to purify Piney Run or to put effective safeguards in place to limit its pollution," Dangel wrote. "Rather than protecting Piney Run as a drinking water resource, the county continues to facilitate residential development within close proximity of the lake."

Carroll has monitored Piney Run water for more than 10 years, testing its viability as a future drinking water source. The county also has studied inflow and outflow from the 2-billion-gallon lake.

"We are now in a most severe drought and are still seeing enough water," said Frazier. "But, in drought, we would probably not be using Piney Run. We would be using Liberty."

Response to mater plan

A year ago, the MDE said it would not allow construction to proceed without substantial revisions to Carroll's water and sewer master plan. County planners have amended the plan and expect to schedule a public hearing late next month.

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