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Water proposal meets with mixed reaction

February 12, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

A proposal intended to address government health concerns about contaminated wells near Boonsboro received a mixed reaction at a public hearing at Boonsboro High School Wednesday night.

Most of the people who spoke at the public hearing attended by about 50 people expressed opposition to a $420,000 proposal under which water customers would have to pay to be connected to water lines extended from the town of Boonsboro.

The line would be extended along Old National Pike from Lappans Road to Mill Point Road.

But several local property owners who stayed after the hearing said they support the proposal, under which they would pay the connection fee of about $3,500 and be annexed into the town.

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Representatives of the Washington County Health Department and the Maryland Department of the Environment said that some of the local wells serving about 90 water users outside the town limits are believed to be contaminated with bacteria - including fecal bacteria - that could cause diseases.

Several speakers denied there was anything wrong with their water and offered to let health officials onto their property to test it.

But water may test negative for contamination one day and positive the next, Laurie Bucher, the Health Department's director of Environmental Health, said.

Under the proposal, the Maryland Department of the Environment will pay $367,500 of the cost of laying the line, with a local government paying $52,500 financed through a low-interest rate loan from MDE.

Of the 90 water users, about 45 are from the Scenic View Trailer Park, Boonsboro Town Manager John Kendall said.

After the meeting Bucher and Kendall gave conflicting answers about what happens next.

Bucher said the next step would be for the town to hold a hearing on whether to annex the property into the town.

But Kendall said nobody has asked for an annexation and judging by critical comments at the hearing he was not sure that would happen. The residents of the area involved may opt to try to treat the problem themselves, he said.

During the hearing, Jude Walsh said that when he moved 11 years ago into a home along Old National Pike he had the water tested and saw there were possible contamination problems.

He said he uses filters and other methods to stop the contamination from affecting the quality of the water coming out of a spigot inside his house, he said.

He said he should not have to pay a $3,500 connection fee that would be required of the water users if the proposal was passed.

Bucher said she was not sure if Walsh can block all possible water contamination with whatever protections he has in place.

Bucher said the contamination probably is the result of the county's karst terrain, which is prone to cracks, sinkholes and depressions. As a result, contaminated surface water that can include substances ranging from runoff to animal waste may run into those openings and seep into well water, Bucher said.

Speakers at the hearing said it was not fair for their area to be singled out for attention and expenses. But Bucher said health officials must respond to contamination problems in the area.

"We have identified a problem. We can't ignore it," Bucher said.

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