Residents raise objections to sludge being stored near their backyards

CA considers plans for dredging lakes

October 04, 2006|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,Sun reporter

The Columbia Association's plans to dredge Lakes Elkhorn and Kittamaqundi are raising more than just mud.

Residents, such as Harvey Nathanson, of the Water's Edge community that overlooks Lake Kittamaqundi, are among those who want the lake dredged but have concerns about the project's effect on the community.

"I'm in favor of them doing it - the lake needs to be dredged, and that is paramount," Nathanson said. "But, I'm not for them dumping that stuff at our side of the lake."

Responding to overwhelming amounts of algae and sediment that threaten to turn the two manmade lakes into marshland if left untouched, the association board has approved $10 million to dredge Lakes Elkhorn and Kittamaqundi, with an engineering contract to be awarded in May. Lake Kittamaqundi was dredged in the 1980s; Elkhorn has never been dredged.

A consultant has recommended that the dredging of the two lakes be staggered to cut costs. Each lake is expected to take more than a year to be dredged, and the association board will decide which lake is dredged first.

One plan for Kittamaqundi calls for the estimated 80,000 to 85,000 cubic yards of dredging waste to be dumped temporarily on open-space property at the northwest section of the lake, near the backyards of many Water's Edge residences - including Nathanson's.

The materials would be transferred to waste facilities by as many as 8,000 truckloads that would travel on a makeshift roadway to be built beside the community, a plan that does not sit well with some near the area.

"We have a nice community, and to put all that stuff there for a year ... it's a total pain," Nathanson said.

Similar complaints are echoed by residents near Lake Elkhorn.

During a recent information meeting, association staff presented residents with five staging areas being considered for dredging the 37-acre lake.

One option that drew criticism from residents was the idea of running an 8-inch pipe from Lake Elkhorn to Hopewell Park and using 33,000 cubic yards of the estimated 85,000 cubic yards of total sediment to level a playing field. The field would also be used as a temporary staging area for the thousands of trucks needed to haul the waste to other facilities.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, an association board member representing Owen Brown, had concerns about the Hopewell Park plan because nearby residents recently were subjected to construction and traffic congestion with the recent upgrade of the Hopewell Pool to compete with Lifetime Fitness, a nearby gym.

The Columbia Association's Open Space management officials have assured residents that none of the options is final, and the association is continuing to re-evaluate the plans.

"Anybody's backyard on any job we do is important, and when we looked at the sites around the land, we looked at what was available and with the thought that it would be in somebody's backyard," said Dennis Mattey, assistant division director for open space.

Tom O'Connor, the association board chairman, said the panel expected some residents to be upset about the proposed staging options.

"Staff gave three and four different options, and people are hearing just the one with a problem," O'Connor said.

Mattey and Chick Rhodehamel, the association's vice president for open-space management, said the open-space property near Water's Edge is a last option if they fail to get approval to use the lower parking lot of the General Growth Properties building in Town Center, or part of the 51.7-acre, crescent-shaped area surrounding Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Mattey has said General Growth Properties would prefer that the association use the crescent property instead of the parking lot, but the two organizations are continuing to discuss the options.

In the meantime, residents concerns have prompted some association board members to seek assurance from staff members that the dredging will be sensitive to the communities and that they will seek more alternative staging spots.

"Now that we have determined that there are major issues with the effect on the communities, it is our responsibility as a board to make sure we have public hearings on each alternative location before moving ahead," said Barbara L. Russell, board member representing Oakland Mills.

Others on the board expect criticism from the community and feel the solution would be to keep residents informed.

"This is Columbia, and people are always going to be upset about `this is in my backyard,' and we want to mitigate the amount of discomfort they have," O'Connor said.

O'Connor said the board's decision could be determined by permits approval - and by community cooperation.

"What is going to happen first is what permits it to happen faster," O'Connor said. "If the neighborhood blocks us from collecting the sludge in their area, then we have to come up with a different plan."

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