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Water, sewer service sought for Clarksville district Contamination in wells cited


An article in Friday's Howard County section about a proposal to bring sewer and water service to Clarksville's business district incorrectly characterized Susan Gray's testimony. Ms. Gray said only two of the properties cited by the Health Department showed levels of contaminants higher than federal drinking water standards.

* The Sun regrets the error.

County officials want to extend water and sewer service to Clarksville's business district to cure ground water contamination problems, Planning Board members were told yesterday.

Wells providing drinking water in the business district, which stretches along Route 108 north of the eastern leg of Route 32, have been contaminated with toxic solvents and salt since 1985, said Frank Skinner, director of the county health department.

The St. Louis School was especially hard hit by contamination from toxic solvents used in such things as automotive work and dry cleaning, requiring the parochial school to install an expensive filtration system, he said.

Mr. Skinner said the source of the contaminants is unknown, but is likely to have been years of drainage from businesses that use solvents, and possibly underground gasoline storage tanks that leaked years ago. Such contamination is not unusual in areas with a concentration of business such as gasoline stations, repair shops or other places that regularly use solvents, Mr. Skinner said.

"I would be willing to bet that if we actually looked at the eastern part of the county, we'd find a lot of similar problems," he said. He noted, however, that public water is used in all but a few eastern county homes.

Evidence of contamination did not impress Susan Gray, a Highland resident and growth-control advocate, who told the Planning Board the introduction of water and sewer service would result in a "domino effect" of rezoning and development.

The area has already been extensively rezoned from residential to commercial uses, and the trend likely would continue, Ms. Gray testified. She noted that changing water and sewer service areas frequently has been used as a legal basis for rezonings throughout the county.

Ms. Gray said the owners of two large parcels near downtown Clarksville "would be crazy" if they didn't ask for rezoning when property adjacent to them is put into the water and sewer area as proposed.

She said all but two of the properties cited by the health department showed levels of contaminants above levels considered safe for drinking by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"What you're seeing is something that's been planned for a long time and that doesn't have any basis in health hazards at all," she said.

To add the area to the county's master plan for water and sewer service, the County Council must amend the 1990 General Plan, the county's 20-year blueprint for growth.

The Planning Board will make its recommendation at a work session at 9 a.m. July 19. At 8 p.m. that day, the council will hold a public hearing on the General Plan amendment. Both meetings will be in the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City.

The board and council also are considering extending water and sewer service to two other areas.

The largest, discussed at a public meeting last week, would extend service to residents near the county landfill in Marriottsville. The landfill is leaking toxic solvents into bedrock water supplies and threatens to contaminate nearby residential wells.

A third change would bring water and sewer service to a 20-acre proposed subdivision in the Burleigh Manor area in western Ellicott City, at the request of the property's owner.

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