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Developers seek info on sewer limits

March 29, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Hagerstown Water and Sewer Manager David Shindle said he believes despite Maryland Department of the Environment restrictions, the sewage needs of new buildings planned by developers can be met in the years ahead.

"Our objective is to create a plan that we can continue to grow at a healthful and manageable pace that everyone can work with," Shindle said during a meeting Monday afternoon.

About 25 developers attended the meeting with Shindle and Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher to learn more about restrictions set forth by a consent agreement reached in January by the city and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

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Developers who spoke Monday worried the consent agreement might hamper their projects.

Hagerstown attorney Roger Schlossberg said the city should provide a consistent way for developers to determine whether their projects would receive enough sewage capacity to proceed.

"All I want to know is the rules. All I want is to be practical, so I can keep moving forward and not be stopped," Schlossberg said.

According to the Interim Sewer Capacity Allocation Program, Hagerstown's sewer system is limited to 120,000 gallons a day of new sewer allocation a year. That is the equivalent of allowing 600 new homes per year to connect to the city's sewer system.

An agreement between the city and Washington County entitles areas outside Hagerstown that are served by the sewer system to receive 25 percent of capacity allocations.

Maher said a permanent plan is expected to be developed by May so that current City Council members don't "drop" the problem on newly elected members.

Shindle said the sewer system currently is rated for a capacity of 8 million gallons a day, but its load fluctuates and is susceptible to conditions such as heavy rain. Shindle said the sewer system handled as many as 30 million gallons a day during wet-weather conditions in 2003 and 2004.

Because of overflows, pollutants spilled into Antietam Creek at times over the last five years, leading to state sanctions and the development of the consent agreement.

Shindle said the system will undergo several phases of upgrades within the next few years. Although capacity increases will be restrained by state caps on the amount of nutrients that can be released by wastewater treatment plants, the upgrades could allow the sewer system to provide more hookups.

Shindle said after the meeting that he believes concerns about how the limitations will affect development can be worked out.

"I think we'll be able to accommodate everybody over time that is in the pipeline right now," Shindle said.

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