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Funkstown frazzled by sewer woes

August 05, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - Funkstown residents, facing higher sewer bills because of their own treatment plant, also are dealing with a pollution problem in Antietam Creek caused by neighboring Hagerstown's treatment plant.

Antietam Creek, which winds around the town of about 1,000 people, was polluted over the weekend by the discharge of almost 3 million gallons of partially treated sewage from the City of Hagerstown Waste Water Treatment Plant.

It was the third time this year that the Washington County Health Department issued warnings about the creek as a result of the Hagerstown plant's release of such waste.

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When they get their next bills, Funkstown residents will face sewer rates that have more than doubled. The town's mayor and council said the increase was needed to offset the cost of a state-mandated upgrade of Funkstown's waste water treatment plant. It's estimated that work will cost $2.4 million.

Nevin Spielman, whose Green Street house is just off the creek, said he isn't happy about either sewer issue.

"I wanna know how (Hagerstown) gets away with it three times this year," Spielman, 60, said.

Hagerstown Water and Sewer Department Manager David Shindle has said that Sunday's release of partially treated sewage was the result of a blown fuse in the sewer plant's main electric gear.

He said that the city hopes to begin a multimillion dollar replacement of its disinfection system, which is at least 20 years old, along with a related, state-funded sewer project, by the end of 2005.

Spielman said he'd like Hagerstown and Funkstown to think about teaming up on a sewer project.

"We've gotta pay for ours to be upgraded, it makes no sense to me," he said.

It makes sense to Gail Mongan, who also lives on Green Street.

Mongan, 82, said Funkstown needs its own treatment plant.

"It's the most impractical idea to try to reverse our sewage system," he said, adding that "gravity" carries the sewage south of town.

Mongan said he'd like Funkstown's mayor and council to look into municipal bonds to help pay for the town's sewer upgrade.

Barbara McCoy, of South Antietam Street, was looking over a letter on the sewer rate increase when questioned Wednesday. Although she said she hadn't formed an opinion on the increase, she had an opinion on the pollution.

"It just bothers me that this is allowed to happen," McCoy, 66, said.

"They said it was accidental, but sometimes you've got to wonder," said Beverly Patterson, 70.

Her husband, Howard Patterson, said that sometimes the smell from the creek is "really bad."

The couple has lived at Antietam Village, a trailer park near Antietam Creek, for about 20 years. Both retired, they said that living on a fixed income is going to make paying higher sewer bills difficult.

Matthew Dobbs, 21, also a resident of Antietam Village, said he's concerned about the rate hike.

"I just wish we had another option," he said.

But what was affecting him Wednesday was the creek pollution. A water lover, Dobbs said he likes to live near it. His cocker spaniel, 18-month old Pumpkin, couldn't agree more.

"My dog loves to go back there and jump in" the water, he said. "Lately I haven't been able to take her outside."

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