Officials committed to cooling wastewater

Discharge into Piney Run warmer than state allows

Cost of project could be over $2 million

October 11, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The Carroll County commissioners expect to decide soon on a plan to lower the temperature of treated water discharged from the county's wastewater treatment plant near Hampstead.

The cost of correcting the temperature is estimated to cost as much as $2.2 million, Carroll Comptroller Eugene Curfman said. But until a specific remedy is chosen, he said the cost won't be known for sure.

"Funding for the project comes from debt," he said, either from the sale of bonds by the county or a loan from the state.

The commissioners voted unanimously last week to allow the county to incur the debt, a legally required housekeeping measure, Curfman said.

Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, a former mayor of Hampstead, said the temperature of the water discharged into Piney Run is only one to 1 1/2 degrees too high, on average, but nonetheless must be lowered.

"We have to decide whether to use chillers, which are noisy and require a building, or a geothermal solution with pipes underground to cool it," she said.

A third possible solution would be to bypass Piney Run altogether and instead run a new line from the existing plant to Deep Run, which does not have the same temperature limits as Piney Run, said County Attorney Kimberly A. Millender.

Deep Run contains no trout, which environmentalists say are harmed by overly warm effluent, she said.

The treatment plant opened in 1975 and discharges treated sewage into Piney Run. The trout stream, which becomes Western Run in Baltimore County, flows into Loch Raven Reservoir.

More than six years ago, a group of Baltimore County residents, the Piney Run Preservation Association, said this effluent harmed the stream and its trout, and filed the first of three lawsuits against Carroll County.

The number of brown trout in Piney Run increased, according to a 2000 report by the state Department of Natural Resources.

While the lawsuit has been resolved, the county is battling the Maryland Department of the Environment in Carroll Circuit Court on two matters, Millender said.

First, she said, the county has asked for a judicial review of the temperature limits, which were set as a condition of the state granting a permit allowing the county to proceed with its plans to increase the plant's daily discharge from 500,000 to 900,000 gallons.

"This is the first temperature limit in the state to be imposed in a discharge permit by MDE against a governmentally owned treatment plant," Millender said.

The county also is negotiating a consent order in an enforcement action of these temperature limits, which was filed against it last month by MDE, Millender said.

The state agency requires that the county monitor the temperature and report any increase above 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit).

In its enforcement action, the state alleged that treated water discharged from the plant exceeded the temperature limit 39 times during the summer. For nine days in June and most of July, the temperature of the effluent exceeded that level, although rarely by more than one degree.

The complaint also alleges that the county did not report these violations within the time limits. The state requires that Carroll report temperature variations by telephone within 24 hours and in writing within five days, an MDE spokesman said. The complaint said the county, instead, sent two months of data that showed numerous violations.

"We are petitioning for judicial review of MDE's temperature restrictions in the permit, the imposition of the limit, as well as how they want to measure it," Millender said

The residents group's lawsuits were resolved in Carroll's favor, Millender said, after rising to federal appeals court.

Three years ago, a federal judge said the plant's discharge violated the Clean Water Act and fined Carroll $400,000. But a year later, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision.

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