Carroll agrees to pay treatment plant fine

Water-temperature limit was exceeded

July 07, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH | LAURA MCCANDLISH,SUN REPORTER

The Carroll County commissioners agreed yesterday to pay $10,000 in state fines for exceeding water-temperature limits at the county's wastewater treatment plant in Hampstead.

The payment is part of an amended agreement that will remain in effect until the Maryland Department of the Environment decides whether the county has to construct a nearly $2 million water-chilling system at the plant.

Rather than install the costly chillers, county officials hope MDE will allow the plant to discharge wastewater warmer than the current 68-degree Fahrenheit limit, said J. Michael Evans, the county's director of public works.

The new consent order stems from a 16-year-old legal dispute with environmental activists from Baltimore County - a feud that has bounced around federal courts, drawing scrutiny from clean-water advocates for years.

Under the revised order, the county will pay MDE $500 a day for the 20-plus days since May that the plant has released treated water that exceeds the 68-degree limit. The treated water empties into Piney Run stream that feeds Loch Raven Reservoir in Baltimore County.

For the rest of summer, the $500-a-day penalty will be collected only if MDE requires the county to install the chillers, according to the agreement.

County officials are optimistic that MDE will eventually agree to the higher temperature threshold of up to 77 degrees.

From Carroll County's perspective, the warmer water temperatures have boosted the brown trout population in and around Piney Run, the stream whose name changes to Western Run in Baltimore County.

But activists from the group that calls itself the Piney Run Preservation Association believe the higher temperatures harm the stream's aquatic life.

The association's attorney, G. Macy Nelson, has pledged that his clients will continue to fight Carroll County about the wastewater temperature.

By October, MDE should issue a decision on whether to allow the Hampstead plant to discharge the warmer wastewater, said Chuck Gates, a spokesman for the state agency.

Even if MDE and Carroll reach an agreement, it could be contested, Gates said.laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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