Harford council rejects extension of water lines

November 14, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun reporter

The Harford County Council voted 4-3 last night against a resolution that would extend public water lines to a Havre de Grace neighborhood.

Wells at nine of the 84 homes in Glenn Heights community are contaminated with trichloroethylene, or TCE, a volatile organic compound.

Lower levels of the industrial solvent were detected in about two dozen other wells, officials said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has installed filtration systems on the nine problematic wells and is monitoring the others periodically.

The county has $2.2 million in federal and state grants to extend water lines to the community. If the county does not use the grant this year, the money will have to be returned.

County Executive David R. Craig said the grant money would be returned immediately with a request that this action not prejudice future applications.

Although connecting to public water would eliminate the contamination problems, residents rejected the option last summer by a 39-38 vote.

"I am troubled that government distributed a ballot, and it failed to win," said Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti, whose district includes the community. "The contaminated wells are a sad situation, but the government has taken care of that with a filtration system. We are spending time and energy on something the majority does not want, and forcing the majority is clearly troubling."

Residents opposed to public water noted the costs, which include the county's $3,727 hookup fee, the expense for any additional plumbing work and the cost to cap off wells within the three years. of construction. They would be assessed for their share of the county's costs over 30 years, an estimated $318 a year.

"The bottom line is that people voted against public water," said Councilman Dion F. Guthrie. "I have to respect the democratic process."

But those who voted to connect the community said health issues were their overriding concern.

"I want to err on the side of public health," said Councilman Richard C. Slutzky. "It is impossible to assure the health of current and future residents without a permanent solution to this problem."

The council has the authority to override the residents' vote and force the neighborhood to connect.

"The power of government should only be forced on citizenry in extreme circumstances," Lisanti said. "I am not sure we have met that test."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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