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MDE fines Hagerstown over sewer-upgrade agreement

August 18, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The Maryland Department of the Environment is fining the City of Hagerstown $3,475 for violating an agreement that sewer system upgrades along Hamilton Run would be completed before the end of February.

Although the city will pay the fines, it eventually will recoup that money from the contractor doing the work on the sewer system, Hagerstown Water Pollution Control Department Manager Rick Thomas said Wednesday.

Thomas said the agreement with the Charles E. Brake Co. of St. Thomas, Pa., the contractor hired to complete the upgrades, includes a provision that holds the company responsible for all damages incurred by the city as a result of their work.

Thomas said the fines are considered damages.

So far the city has paid the Department of the Environment $2,300 in fines. Another bill, for $1,175, will be sent to the city in the next few days, according to MDE spokesman John Verrico.

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The fines were levied under the terms of a 1995 agreement between the state and the city. According to the agreement, certain upgrades to the sewer system had to be completed by Feb. 23, 1999, and the city would be fined $25 for each day after that date the work was not completed.

Verrico said the work was completed July 20.

Thomas said the contractor was finishing some restoration work such as landscaping and seeding.

The $3.16 million in upgrades to the sewer system, which includes adding a replacement sewer line that runs along Hamilton Run, are expected to keep heavy rain from seeping into the sewer lines.

In the past, infiltration into the pipes has occasionally overloaded the system, causing sewage to back up into some homes or forcing the city to pump sewage into Hamilton Run, a stream that flows into Antietam Creek.

The problem forced the city to pump an estimated 50 million gallons of wastewater into Hamilton Run over the last six years.

Charles E. Brake Co. representatives could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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