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Suit delays sewage agreement

December 17, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

An agreement between the City of Hagerstown and the Maryland Department of the Environment over punishment and corrective measures for the city's sewer system problems has been delayed by a recent lawsuit threat, the mayor said.

Mayor William M. Breichner said this week that a mid-November letter from Rockville, Md.-based environmental activist group Potomac Riverkeeper spurred the delay.

According to the letter, the group said it would sue the city under the U.S. Clean Water Act if it did not correct within 60 days problems that led to several spills of raw sewage and partially treated wastewater over the past few years.

According to the letter, the group's lawyers cited federal statistics that said the city dumped 30 million to 60 million gallons of raw sewage into Antietam Creek in September 2003. In connection with other spills, the group estimated the city discharged 90 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the creek since 2002.

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The letter is required under federal law.

Breichner said the MDE is being more cautious since the legal threat was issued, but the city and the state agency likely would release the agreement before Jan. 1.

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