In The Region


December 31, 2008

Gambrills residents, CEG reach water settlement

A Baltimore judge approved a $54 million settlement yesterday between Constellation Energy and a group of Gambrills residents whose drinking water was contaminated by fly ash, a byproduct of burning coal. The energy company will create a $9.5 million fund for the residents of 84 homes that had contaminated wells and spend another $10 million to clean up and improve the former quarry where the ash was dumped, said the plaintiffs' attorney, William "Hassan" Murphy III.

"What this settlement really says is that when community are affected by this problem, it's possible to solve it in a creative and positive way," said Murphy, managing partner of the Murphy Group, which worked with Peter G. Angelos' law firm to represent the residents. Constellation will connect the homes with contaminated wells to the public water supply and to pay the residents' water bills for a decade. The energy company agreed to never dump fly ash at the site again - which represents a loss of approximately $17.5 million - and to pay $500,000 to a fund for residents of nearby condominiums. An additional $10 million will go to attorney fees. Fly ash, which rises from smokestacks when coal is burned, was released into the air in the past. Environmental regulations now require it to be trapped and contained. From 1995 until last year, a contractor working for Constellation dumped fly ash from the Brandon Shores power plant in Pasadena in a former gravel pit near Summerfield Road. County inspectors found that arsenic and other metals found in fly ash had leached from the quarry into nearby wells, and some residents attributed health problems to the contamination. The state department of the environment fined Constellation $1 million last year for the contamination. The energy company and lawyers for the residents agreed to the settlement terms in October, and Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Alfred Nance approved the deal yesterday. Constellation has already begun to improve the dumping site and plans to have the 84 homes connected to the public water supply by the end of 2010, spokeswoman Maureen Brown said. The ash currently produced by Brandon Shores is being taken to a Virginia facility, she said. Last week, a massive coal ash spill near Knoxville, Tenn., covered 300 acres in sludge and damaged a dozen homes.

Julie Scharper

UMBC shares top spot in college chess play

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has regained its spot atop the college chess world - but a tie decision means it must share the crown with another team. UMBC tied for first place yesterday with the University of Texas at Dallas at the Pan American Intercollegiate Chess Championship in Dallas. The tournament, which is considered the "World Series of college chess," included 29 teams from North, South and Central America. UMBC last won the tournament in 2005 but came in second the past two years. On the first day of this year's tournament, two of UMBC's six players came down with high fevers and missed the first several rounds of play. They returned for the final rounds. "I'm very proud," said Alan Sherman, a UMBC professor and faculty adviser to the chess team, "especially given the hardship with physical illness." The UMBC team includes four grandmasters: Leonid Kritz, Sergey Erenburg, Timur Gareyev and Sabina Foisor.


Howard measure would further restrict hunters

Hunters in Howard County would face more stringent safety restrictions under a law proposed in the wake of an incident this month in which a stray bullet smashed the window of a day care center in Clarksville. County Executive Ken Ulman announced yesterday that he will submit the measure for introduction at the County Council meeting Monday. Four of the five council members are co-sponsors of the proposal. The measure seeks to double to 300 yards the minimum distance for firing a weapon near a building. The minimum remains 150 yards for those at least 10 feet off the ground in a tree stand and firing downward. The measure also would ban firing a gun toward any building or camp designed for people within the gun's maximum range, or within 100 yards from a public road.

Larry Carson

Woman trying to cross road is hit by car, killed

Anne Arundel County police say a woman was hit by a car and killed while trying to cross Ritchie Highway in Pasadena. About 7:24 p.m. Monday, officers were called to Ritchie Highway and Kellington Drive for a report of a pedestrian struck by a car. Officers determined that a Honda Civic driven by an 18-year-old Pasadena man hit Felicia Tara Howard, 36, of the 8000 block of Ritchie Highway. After impact, Howard was propelled more than 140 feet and landed in the grassy median, police said. The driver of the Honda, identified as Christopher A. Shade, said he did not see the woman in time to avoid striking her, police said. Pedestrian error is cited as the preliminary cause of the crash, police said. No charges have been filed.

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