Commissioners may adopt plan for water, sewer

South County residents oppose treatment plant

It would affect Piney Run

Community group objects to Westminster meeting

Carroll County

August 29, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After months of revisions, county officials could adopt a new master plan for water and sewer at a public hearing tonight.

But the county commissioners first will listen to opponents of a proposed $16 million water treatment plant on Piney Run Reservoir that is at the heart of the plan. Several South Carroll residents plan to air their opposition during the hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m. at the County Office Building in Westminster.

Their first complaint will be with the hearing's location. It should be held in Sykesville where the plant would be built, they said.

"Here is where the impact of the plant will be felt the most and here is where this hearing should be held," said Ross Dangel, chairman of Freedom Area Citizens Council, an unofficial group that serves as a liaison between county government and South Carroll communities.

The plan makes the water treatment plant a priority project. The plant has faced strident opposition from residents who say it will open the doors to more development in an area coping with crowded schools and roads. Many also fear the plant will adversely affect the lake, which has become a popular recreation spot.

Planners included a broad look at all areas of the county, including all municipal utility systems. It includes any changes to those systems and projections for future demand, said Bobbi Moser, a county planner.

"We recalculated all the numbers and projected demand assuming build-outs," Moser said. "This is a countywide plan and the county seat is centrally located for a hearing."

State law requires periodic updates to plans. But Dangel said, "The county chose this master plan as a means to incorporate the Piney Run plant and get the state's blessing."

The state has refused to issue a construction permit for the plant, which the Maryland Department of the Environment has called inconsistent with Carroll's master plan to guide growth. County planners revised the document "in an effort to satisfy the state and make Piney Run consistent with our plan," Moser said.

The county has not proved it needs a second water treatment plant in South Carroll, its most rapidly growing and most-populated area, Dangel said. South Carroll depends on water drawn from Liberty Reservoir, a lake owned by Baltimore City, and suffers from persistent seasonal water shortages. The nearly 7,000 homes on the public system have coped with water restrictions since April.

County officials have declined to negotiate with the city for more water from Liberty Reservoir and pushed instead for a second water source at Piney Run. "With Piney Run, the county will accelerate development in the watershed," Dangel said.

The revised plan lists conservation measures that protect watershed areas, but it states that the county is no longer pursuing a watershed management ordinance.

Dangel called the plan "amateurish at best with no information on how to pay for a new plant or how to meet current or long-term needs for water." The capital improvement plan is the usual place for detailing financial options, said Moser.

The commissioners could approve the plan after the hearing or they could decide to leave the record open for several days. Once the document is approved, it would go to MDE, which has 90 days to review it.

"I think MDE will look really hard at anything that threatens water supplies in the area," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who has opposed the plant. "We will have to say we are going to control growth here or promise there will be no rezonings in the watershed area."

Copies of the plan are available on the county's Web site, at library branches and at the County Office Building.

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