County stakes its claim on rubble fill for pipeline


Harford County has taken steps to condemn a section of the controversial Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc. rubble fill property in order to make way for a water pipeline.

The move marks the latest round in the dispute between the county and the 55-acre Abingdon rubble fill, whose owners have unsuccessfully sought county and state approval to expand by 18 acres for more than a year.

Late last month, the company rejected Harford's offer of $6,700 for a one-third-acre parcel on a corner of its rubble fill, on Abingdon Road near Route 7 and Interstate 95.

On Tuesday, Emory Plitt, the county attorney, received the County Council's permission to begin the appropriation of the land.

The county wants to buy the easement to complete a connection to the Baltimore-owned aqueduct known as the "Big Inch," a 108-inch diameter pipe that starts at the Susquehanna River and runs parallel to Interstate 95 for 38 miles, ending at Lake Montebello.

"Money isn't the issue," said William L. Geary Jr., a spokesman for Spencer, who asked the council to delay a decision on the condemnation proceedings until its next session on Sept. 1.

"I can't speak to the real issue because it relates to a zoning matter, and it would put you all in a conflict of interest," he said.

The council also sits as the Board of Zoning Appeals.

But Mr. Plitt used Mr. Geary's statement to back up his appeal for the right to get the court to decide an appropriate reimbursement.

The county offered the company the $6,700 June 25, and Spencer rejected the offer July 23, Mr. Plitt told the council.

"We do not plan to offer any more money. You just heard him say money isn't the issue," Mr. Plitt said. "When it becomes clearnegotiations are going nowhere, you can read the tea leaves.

"It looks like at this point we should let the court decide what the value of the easement is," he added.

Mr. Plitt said other alternative routes for the pipe, including tunneling under the interstate, were impractical or expensive.

"There are five different lines that could have been put in to make this work, but the best way is through the Spencer property," Mr. Plitt told the council.

Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B, cast the only vote against beginning condemnation proceedings.

She said one letter and 30 days' time "is not a typical negotiation."

Councilman Barry T. Glassman, R-District D, disagreed.

"The issue is the county needs the easement. We've made the top offer, and they'll have three months to negotiate," Mr. Glassman said.

Tapping into the water line is expected to provide the county up to 10 million gallons of water daily. County water customers now consume about 6 million gallons daily.

The county needs another source of water because population projections show that demand will equal the county's water supply between 1994 and 1996.

Past problems at the rubble fill include state tests in March that showed that two suspected carcinogens -- trichloroethylene and dichloroethylene -- were found in levels above state and federal limits in two monitoring wells at Spencer.

In May, the county began investigating whether the rubble fill had already been expanded without state or county approval.

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