Residents urge public water hookups Council to vote on issue Thursday


Residents of rural west county areas whose wells are contaminated or threatened with contamination urged the Howard County Council last night to bring public water to their neighborhoods as soon as possible.

"We believe that bringing public water . . . must be done as expeditiously as possible," said L. Scott Muller, of Marriottsville, who spoke on behalf of many of the 216 people attending the hearing.

"It is imperative that the county bear the cost of the hookups to assure that every citizen at risk is protected," he said, a cost he estimated would run about $20,000 a household or $6 million to $8 million altogether.

"This is a very, very urgent problem," said Dr. Donald L. Gill, TC Mariottsville resident and specialist in biological chemistry. Dr. Gill and Mr. Mueller have led residents in calling public attention to potential problems with well-water contamination.

The county has discovered carcinogens in test wells on the Alpha Ridge landfill in Marriottsville, but none have turned up so far in residential wells on 2,800 acres surrounding the facility.

The water in the wells surrounding the landfill will begin showing contamination in two years, Dr. Gill said. "All the residents living around the landfill are [already] afraid to drink their water," he said.

Marriottsville residents would be included in the county public water and sewer district under a proposed amendment to the General Plan.

St. Louis Roman Catholic Church in Clarksville and all the commercial properties on 123 acres west of Route 108 in Clarksville would receive county water and sewer service, as would 23 acres in the Burleigh Manor subdivision.

Other rural residents are concerned that the extension of water and sewer service into rural western Howard County will open the way to intense development.

"We were aware there would be a great deal of concern," said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., county planning and zoning director. "We are not proposing to change the underlying land use. We would argue that the character of the areas is to remain rural" since the extension is for health reasons only.

Planning Board member Dale Schumacher recommended that the county bring only water, not sewer, to the Marriottsville area, as a way to limit development there.

The Planning Board "is getting more and more concerned that we're dealing with remedial zoning," Dr. Schumacher said. "If we're looking at adding properties, we should also look at removing properties from the next comprehensive water and sewer plan."

Dr. Schumacher said the county should bring water and sewer service to St. Louis Church and the Clarksville commercial properties as soon as possible.

Msgr. Anthony Sauerwein, pastor of St. Louis, said he spoke with the county executive six weeks ago about the health and safety problems the church is facing.

The church is now filtering water from contaminated wells to serve parishioners on Sundays, 350 school children from kindergarten to the eighth grade on weekdays, and 700 children who attend religious education classes on Saturdays, Monsignor Sauerwein said.

The council also heard testimony that employees of a bank in the area have been using bottled water for 10 years because of well contamination.

"I was glad to see Clarksville properties brought in" to the water and sewer proposal, said Councilman Charles C. Feaga, R-5th. "It will offer a buffer zone to the rest of the area."

Mr. Feaga also said he was concerned about the welfare of "several thousand children in the area."

The council also dealt with a second controversial issue -- a bill that would ban smoking in public places beginning July 1, 1996, making it the toughest anti-smoking law in the state and one of the toughest on the East Coast.

Proponents said the council was in a position to save people's lives by passing the bill and urged them to do so. Opponents said the county should wait for statewide legislation.

"If you believe there's going to be statewide legislation [banning smoking in public places], you believe in the tooth fairy," said tobacco lobbyist Bruce Bereano.

The council will vote on the water proposal and the smoking bill Thursday night.

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