Fallston residents and council members questioned a Columbia Gas spokesman Tuesday on the necessity of a portion of a natural gas pipeline that would cut through the community.

Alex Oehler, community relations director for Columbia, spoke at the Fallston Community Council meeting Tuesday evening at the Fallston Volunteer Fire Company meeting room and clarified a few concerns regarding rights-of-way and Columbia's plan for the redundant line.

Many residents, however, remain wary of the pipeline's safety, proposed route and intended use.

Oehler stressed how important it is for Columbia to have community input, even negative comments, so it enables them to be best prepared for the project.

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About 10 other members working on the pipeline project were also at the meeting.

The company, he said, "has taken a look at our system as a whole" and identified where improvements and upgrades could be made to provide better and safer service for its customers.

One of those, Oehler said, is the existing MA pipeline, which goes through Fallston.

"Our job is to make sure gas is there 24-7 safely and reliably," he said. To ensure that, Columbia concluded that a parallel MB line system needs to be extended from Owings Mills to the Rutledge Road compressor station.

He assured the few residents in attendance that Columbia intends to minimize, as much as possible, the impact it could have on homeowners and natural resources.

Oehler clarified that the entire application process the company must go through with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which held a public hearing earlier in the month, is a 24-month process and Columbia is still in the pre-filing phase.

He anticipates the company will submit its official application around August.

As a result of community feedback, Oehler said, Columbia is looking at another route for the pipeline.

The current proposal has the MB line running nearly parallel to the existing MA pipeline, except in Harford County, where the line would jog south before meeting with the existing line at the Rutledge station north of Fallston. Columbia is, however, looking at possibly taking that line north instead.

The "preferred" route, as Oehler described it, would move along BGE's rights-of-way to get to the Rutledge station, but Columbia is taking a "foot by foot look" right now, he added.

The 26-inch diameter MB line will require a 25-foot right-of-way on either side of it, Oehler said, and the company wants to overlap the right-of-way with the existing MA line.

Within that 75-foot overlapping right-of-way, Oehler continued, Columbia will "try to be as nimble as we can" as to limit disruptions.

"It's a balancing act we have to do," Oehler said.

A common question the company has heard is from homeowners concerned about the impact the pipeline could have on their wells and septic systems.

Joseph Fortier, a resident on Preakness Drive, who could potentially be affected by the pipeline, thanked Columbia for looking at the alternative route, but still was not happy about the 75-foot right-of-way that would "run right through my back yard."

That 75 feet, Fortier continued, would also mean that number of trees potentially being cut down.