Balto. County opposes water plan

Carroll County

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

Even as the county commissioners prepare to approve Carroll's revised master plan for water and sewer, Baltimore County officials are condemning the document and asking the Maryland Department of the Environment to reject it.

Carroll planners sought comment from surrounding areas as they drafted the plan, which has at its heart a $16 million water treatment plant on Piney Run Reservoir in Sykesville.

Two of Carroll's commissioners say the plant is vital to easing persistent water shortages in South Carroll but many residents oppose the project, fearing it will spur development in an area that is coping with crowded roads and schools. Opponents have urged commissioners to expand the county plant treating water from Liberty Reservoir.

In a letter to the commissioners and to MDE, David A.C. Carroll, Baltimore County's director of environmental protection, does not mention the proposed Piney Run plant by name. But he called the Carroll County plan deficient in several areas.

"The plan does not adequately document that the planned growth in Carroll County can be served by existing water and sewerage facilities, or that the future water and sewerage facilities will be adequate and available when needed," Carroll said in the letter dated Tuesday.

Baltimore County officials said the Carroll plan runs counter to a state law by not providing information on the cost and financing of planned improvements. The letter also decries Carroll County's "significant growth in the reservoir watersheds."

Carroll, who was not available for comment yesterday, wrote, "This growth will adversely impact the quality and quantity of the regional water resources."

Also among Baltimore County's criticisms of the document is the lack of references to the legal rights Baltimore City has to water in the Patapsco River basin, an area that includes the city-owned Liberty Reservoir, a lake that lies entirely within Carroll County and is the source of drinking water for nearly 2 million people in the metropolitan area. Liberty's watershed covers more than one-third of Carroll County and includes five of its planned growth areas.

"Baltimore County has a right to its opinion, but I don't think it means much," said Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier. "Why didn't they do this 25 years ago? This is the same plan that has been approved again and again."

Carroll County can draw up to 3 million gallons daily from Liberty Reservoir, water it delivers to nearly 7,000 homes and businesses in South Carroll.

The most notable change to the Carroll plan, which the commissioners are expected to approve, is that it makes a treatment plant on Piney Run Reservoir a priority.

Frazier and Commissioner Donald I. Dell have pushed the $16 million plant as the solution to the persistent water shortages in South Carroll, and will likely provide the necessary votes to approve the plan.

"A vote against Piney Run is a vote for Baltimore City to control Carroll's water supply," said Frazier. "That control comes with costs and strings attached."

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, who has opposed the Piney Run plant, said Baltimore County has reason for concern.

"Basically, they are using the same water as we are," Gouge said. "There has been a lot of development around Piney Run that should not have happened, if we were going to use it as a water supply. There is not a lot of green space protecting the lake."

MDE has final authority over any jurisdiction's water and sewer plans and requires periodic updates to the documents. MDE refused to issue a construction permit for the Piney Run plant a year ago and called the project inconsistent with the county's plan for growth. Carroll planners concentrated heavily on references to Piney Run reservoir as they revised the document.

MDE officials said yesterday that they had received Baltimore County's letter and that they are reviewing it."Whenever we get comments, we take them seriously and we take them into account," said John Verrico, MDE spokesman. "It behooves everyone to make sure they get their points across."

The commissioners held a public hearing last night on the revisions and will hold the record open for several days before voting.

Ross Dangel, chairman of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, wrote in a letter read into the record last night that other counties' criticisms are a good barometer. "This is a poorly formulated plan, rushed through in an all-out effort to build a water treatment plant, which already has no solid practical foundation," he said.

If the commissioners approve the plan, MDE can take up to 90 days to review it before making a final determination. State officials could approve it and pave the way for the Piney Run plant or reject it entirely and order the county to rewrite it.

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