Health Department seeks source of stream sewage


WESTMINSTER -- An unnamed stream that runs along Railroad Avenue has been contaminated by sewage, and the county Health Department is trying to find out how.

Health Department officials have been trying to determine a possible source of the contamination since late February, when the city received a complaint about an odor of sewage at the stream.

The unnamed stream is a tributary to the West Branch of the Patapsco River. It flows toward Liberty Reservoir, which is part of the Baltimore public water supply.

Charles L. Zeleski, assistant director of the county's Environmental Health Department, said the source and the extent of the contamination have not been determined.

The investigation has included testing of the water and contacts with Beacon Industries Inc., whose plant at 100 Railroad Ave. is near the stream and is not hooked up to the city's sewer system.

City records show that other businesses in the area on Railroad Avenue and John Street are hooked up to the sewer system.

In a March 9 letter, Richard B. Isaac, the county's director of environmental health, told Beacon owner Douglas G. Walker that the county wanted to put a marker substance into the company's sewage-disposal system to see if it made its way into the stream.

"Results of the investigation indicate that sewage is entering the stream via a drain pipe," Isaac wrote in requesting the test.

Zeleski would not say whether the test had been conducted.

Beacon applied to the city on March 13 to hook up to the sewer system. Yesterday, Walker said the company had planned to hook up to the system since last year and that work on the project was beginning this week.

He said a state inspector came to the site and determined that Beacon's septic system was not polluting the stream.

Maryland Department of the Environment spokesman John Goheen said he could not find a record of a visit to the site.

In the past year, the stream has attracted the attention of city and county officials because city resident Monroe G. Haines Sr. has waged a campaign to clean it up.

City records show Beacon gave the city land in 1985 so the city could install a storm drain pipe. The company and the city agreed then that the city would waive the connection fee if and when Beacon tied into the system.

Thomas B. Beyard, director of the city's Planning and Public Works departments, said construction and connection fees would total at least $4,200, which the city will pay.

Yesterday, Walker said the city had reneged on its 1985 agreement by charging the company a $7,680 "benefit assessment fee" when it applied to connect to the system.

Benefit assessment fees go into a fund used for capital improvement projects and are separate from connection fees, Beyard said.

Beacon will pay the benefit assessment fee today, Walker said.

The company, a manufacturer of equipment for raising poultry and small animals, was sold in December, Walker said. He is trying to sell the building.

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