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Polluted wells

June 05, 2003

Someone will soon get around to protect citizens in the Boonsboro area from the effects of contaminated well water, but probably not before Washington County's elected officials get finished another round of pass-the-buck politics. Local officials should address this quickly. If local history is a reliable guide, if it's left up the state, the solution will be more complicated - and expensive.

On Tuesday the Washington County Health department told the County Commissioners that wells along the Old National Pike in Boonsboro are contaminated with fecal coliform, which could cause serious diseases. In all, health officials said, 80 homes and nine businesses and churches are affected.

Health officials propose to protect the public's health by extending water and sewer lines from Boonsboro, at an estimated cost of up to $620,000.

Boonsboro officials say they're willing to accept the new customers, but not pay the cost of the new lines, since the affected areas are outside the town limits. The commissioner said they didn't want to foot the bill because the customers would be Boonsboro's, and not the county's.

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Commissioners' President Greg Snook said that "If the money's not there for the state...then I ain't going close to it."

So much for the public's health, apparently, with Snook indicating he's heard more from those who opposes municipal systems than those who are scared of disease.

The county heard the same sort of protests from residents on the Huyetts Crossroads area in 1983 after the State of Maryland ordered the county to put the area on public water by 1984.

The cost of that system began at $3.2 million, then quaickly grew to $3.8 million, though the state did kick in $1 million.

To protect the public health - something that should be the commissioners' top priority - the state could order a system built for the Boonsboro area without providing a nickel to install it. County officials should do the right thing now, before the state orders them to do something more expensive.

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