An inconvenient decision

July 22, 2011|By EDITORIAL FROM THE RECORD

For a jurisdiction that wants to grow but lacks adequate drinking water supplies to do so without relying on others, the Aberdeen city government's recent decision to permit the erection of underground gasoline tanks in an area close to water supply wells used by Harford County is ridiculous and downright shortsighted.

The Aberdeen City Council last week voted narrowly to give the go-ahead to Royal Farms to build one of its ubiquitous convenience stores and gas stations at the corner of Newton Lane and Route 7, a half a block away from the busy Route 715 access corridor toAberdeen Proving Ground.

Given existing development in this area and what's expected to come in the future, the site in question is a natural for Royal Farms, and the city will be reaping considerably more in tax dollars than the currently vacant property generates, Royal Farms' representatives told the council members. But at what price?

Councilwoman Ruth Ann Young unsuccessfully asked her colleagues to delay acting on the approval, citing the proximity to the county's Short Lane Wellfield, a supply field the county has owned for decades and which was formerly the main source of drinking water fro the county's public water system.

The county, albeit belatedly, has raised its own concerns. Tanks leak and above ground spills occur, which means there is always a potential to contaminate the aquifer supplying the wells. It happened previously with a smaller field the county owned farther south in Perryman, where chemicals used in training exercises at APG seeped into the ground and contaminated those wells.

Royal Farms' representative said all kinds of precautions are designed into the gas station, including the use of triple-walled tanks that exceed Maryland's regulations for double-walled tanks. Don't worry about any liability from a spill, Royal Farms' lawyer told the council, the city itself wouldn't be responsible. In fact, Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck expressed her indignation that the county would even stick its nose into the city's legal business of regulating business activity within its borders.

Short Lane Wellfield, which is on federal property just outside the city limits, is mainly used today by the county as a backup. Other, more reliable sources were developed decades ago, specifically, because the county was growing and it was recognized the wellfield was prone to capacity and contamination issues.

Aberdeen officials know all too well about the unreliability of wells because the bulk of their own water supply comes from wells elsewhere in the city. As the city has grown, Aberdeen has had to depend on Harford County to augment its water supply through costly purchases.

The day is coming soon when Aberdeen will have to depend on to the county for the city's entire water supply. It's a very bad move to jeopardize that relationship and endanger what water could be available for the sake of another convenience store and a few more gas pumps.

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