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MDE sidesteps sewer issue

January 18, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) declined to weigh in on a proposed sewer agreement between the City of Hagerstown and Washington County that could allow Washington County Hospital to move from its current location on Antietam Street within city limits to land off Robinwood Drive outside the city, according to a document acquired Tuesday night by The Herald-Mail Co.

During closing remarks at their work session Tuesday night, some members of the City Council made brief mention of the letter from MDE Water Management Administrator Director Robert M. Summers to Christopher L. Bordlemay, acting department manager of the city's water and sewer department, that the city received Jan. 12.

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire provided a copy of the letter to The Herald-Mail. During their remarks, he and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the letter was not drafted clearly, though they said in it that Summers appeared to contradict prior MDE statements on the issue. In order to move from the city to the county, the hospital needs a certain amount of sewer capacity from the city.

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Due to problems at its wastewater treatment plant, including system overflows, the city has been forced to operate under a consent judgment it entered into with the MDE limiting the amount of new sewer connections it is able to grant in any given year.

The city and county have developed an agreement under which the city would grant the hospital the capacity it needs in exchange for additional capacity from the county's treatment plant, but the City Council previously voted not to move forward with the agreement until the MDE evaluated it.

Summers' letter appears to suggest the consent judgment does not have any impact on the proposed agreement between the county and city, and he goes on to endorse public improvements such as the hospital move.

"It should be noted MDE encourages all local governments to give special consideration to connection of facilities that benefit the overall community, such as schools, fire and police buildings and hospitals, when approving allocation requests," Summers' letter read in part.

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