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Aberdeen council passes water loan program

BY HAFIZ RASHID, Special to The Record

9:11 PM EDT, October 24, 2012

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The Aberdeen City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve an ordinance establishing a water loan program using funds from a settlement with the makers of the gasoline additive MTBE.

The loan program is the result of the city being awarded $2,577,140.33 in damages from a lawsuit filed after the city spent $3 million from its water fund cleaning up its wellfield after it was contaminated by MTBE, or methyl tertiary-butyl ether, in 2004 and 2005.

According to the terms of the ordinance, money from the program cannot be spent on anything other than water system infrastructure unless a nationally declared emergency affects the city or if an alternate spending proposal for the money is approved by a voter referendum.

The loan fund would allow the city to "borrow our own money and pay it back at a certain interest rate to ourselves," Mayor Mike Bennett explained.

At the previous week's council work session, City Manager Douglas Miller mentioned how the city had paid to clean up its wells using money from the water fund. He said the fund needed to be reimbursed with proceeds from the lawsuit damages.

"This has to go back in the water fund because that's where it came from," Miller said.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, MTBE, an oxygenate, was widely blended with gasoline for decades, first to reduce engine knocking and later in larger concentrations to reduce levels of certain chemicals in exhaust to comply with Federal Clean Air Act standards.

Exposure to MTBE vapors in high concentrations has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, according to the EPA, which also says the chemical's presence can cause foul odors and taste in drinking water.

Higher than normal levels of MTBE were found in the Aberdeen wellfield off Route 7 that supplies the bulk of the city's drinking water supply. The city in turn installed an expensive filtration system and took other measures to deal with the problem.

APG sewer bid approved

Also during Monday's council meeting, Miller announced that McQuitty Construction, Inc. in Rising Sun was awarded the bid to replace the sanitary sewer at Aberdeen Proving Ground's Building 5015 at a cost of $52,732.

McQuitty was the only bidder for the project, which will be paid for by Aberdeen Proving Ground. The city owns and operates material sewer services for the base and has to approve any changes as a result.

Director of Public Works Matt Lapinsky announced that a new leaf vacuum truck was delivered to the city on Oct. 17 and would be put to use shortly.

Lapinsky also thanked members of the council and other city employees for sending cards, flowers and condolences on the recent death of his mother in Pennsylvania.

In attendance at the meeting was Aberdeen's Cub Scout Pack 820, whose members were given a tour of city hall by the council prior to the meeting.