When Marian and Patrick O'Connor moved to their home in North Laurel three years ago, there was no stream in their back yard.
Now there is -- every time it rains or snows.
Mrs. O'Connor says overflow from two storm water management ponds, built as part of a new housing development behind her house on Hillcrest Drive, runs through the woods and ends up in her back yard.
"It stays wet constantly," she said. "I can't even get out to hang up my clothes."
Mrs. O'Connor's water problems began two years ago when Winchester Homes began construction on Patuxent Springs, a community of 70 single-family homes on 43 acres near Routes 21 and U.S. 29.
She and her neighbors, Joseph and Lois Mahony, whose back yard is also affected by the runoff, say they've complained to Howard County public works officials many times about the soggy mess.
"I just can't seem to get any satisfaction out of these people," said Mr. Mahony. "They just keep sloughing it off from one department to another."
The Mahonys said they can't even sit outside in the summer because the damp ground attracts swarms of mosquitoes and gnats.
In response to residents' complaints, county public works officials say they inspected the ponds last summer and found that they were built properly.
"Everything was being built in accordance with county criteria," said Andrew Daneker, who heads the Bureau of Construction and Inspection.
Mr. Daneker said runoff has always pooled in the low-lying area. He said the storm water management ponds were built to collect extra runoff created by construction.
But Mr. Mahony and his neighbors say they never had a water runoff problem before the construction.
"It's like a stream," said Mr. Mahony, standing in his back yard, which is completely snow-covered except for a muddy path running down the hill from the Patuxent Springs development.
"I was thinking about getting topsoil and redoing the lawn, but what's the sense? Every time it rains it'll wash away."
Winchester Homes plans to fill in one of the ponds next fall. The grounds surrounding the remaining pond will be landscaped with trees and bushes, and the pond will continue to be a collector for water runoff, said Patrick Pellerin, a spokesman for the developer.
In the meantime, Mr. Mahony worries about the resale value of his home.
"If I took one look at the back yard, I wouldn't buy it," he said.