County Councilman Robert G. Cassilly wants to reduce the chance of another gasoline leak contaminating drinking water, such as the one in Upper Crossroads last year that forced more than 225 households to use bottled water.
The Bel Air Republican is proposing legislation banning gas stations near homes that rely on wells. The measure is scheduled for a public hearing during a council session June 7.
"It's not about Exxon," Cassilly said of the legislation. "Exxon was just the tip of the iceberg. I don't want any station in any part of the county next to a home that is not served by public water."
He added: "What this amounts to is a moratorium on gasoline stations outside of the development envelope," an area that includes Bel Air and the Interstate 95 and U.S. 40 corridor.
An Exxon station at Routes 152 and 165 was the suspected source of the toxic chemical leak that is believed to be the biggest incidence of well contamination in state history.
Wells at homes surrounding the station, some more than a half-mile away, contained traces of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, as the gasoline additive is commonly called.
MTBE in large doses has been linked to cancer in laboratory animals, though the risk to humans at low levels has not been determined.
Traces of MTBE also have been found in wells near gasoline stations in Churchville, Fallston and Jarrettsville, according to the county Health Department. A 7-Eleven station in Aberdeen was suspected to be leaking MTBE into a well that serves the city's public water supply.
Cassilly said his bill is a small part of more comprehensive legislation designed to protect the county's water-resource district. He is working on the measure with Councilwoman Cecelia M. Stepp, a Republican representing Havre de Grace, Perryman and Abingdon.
"Stepp and I were looking at the broader perspective of water quality before anyone knew about the MTBE leak at the Exxon station," Cassilly said. "But that bill is bogged down. It's going to take some time.
"I'm taking this little piece out of the more comprehensive bill and running with it," he said. "It will be some time before we can present the broader bill."
Cassilly said the proposed law would apply only to the opening of new gasoline stations.
"But gasoline stations turn over fairly rapidly," he said. "One closes, and they pull the tanks out of the ground and a new station soon opens on the same site.
"We don't want people living in Darlington to drive to Bel Air to buy gas. My hope is that if the council passes this bill the county executive will come back with a new bill in the not-too-distant future that will lay out tougher standards for the opening of new stations."