State officials are close to deciding whether they will allow Black & Decker (U.S.) to pump an average of 432,000 gallons of water a day from wells at its Hampstead plant in an attempt to contain and clean up underground pollution.
"We've pretty well decided that the amount of water they've requested is reasonable," Terrance W. Clark, chief of the Water Resources Administration's Water Rights Division, said yesterday.
Many local residents, Carroll County officials and Hampstead town officials had objected to the scale of Black & Decker's proposal. They fear the amount of water to be pumped would decrease the water table and harm area wells.
The six chemicals that the company wants to clean up are industrial solvents.
Mr. Clark said he cannot make a final decision until he receives additional information on Black & Decker's plans for monitoring the effects of the pumping.
He also said he is awaiting the firm's response to the idea of sharing water cleaned in the project with the town of Hampstead.
Mr. Clark said he expects to make a final decision in a week or two.
Black & Decker's monitoring plan calls for the use of observation wells to monitor the project's impact on local water tables and on the movement of the underground contamination, Mr. Clark said.
The state may require additional observation wells, including some outside Black & Decker's property, to make sure the water tables are not unreasonably lowered and to ensure that the pollutants go where they are supposed to go, he said.
The company's plan calls for the water to be cleaned to drinking water standards. Any water the company does not use would be discharged into a local stream.
Town officials have indicated interest in obtaining some of the cleaned water, Mr. Clark said.
"It's a lot of water to be going down the tubes," said Hampstead Town Manager John A. Riley. "If it's potable water, it should be an option" for the town to use some of it.
"It's kind of like making the best of a bad situation," said Hampstead Mayor Clint Becker, who said he is concerned about the impact the plant's pumping will have on the town's aquifer.
"If we can get any benefit out of it, any's better than nothing, as long as we don't jeopardize the health of the people of the town of Hampstead."
Mayor Becker said he would be uncomfortable using the cleaned water unless some kind of "fail-safe" system for testing it is developed -- such as storing the water in large tanks and testing it one tankful at a time.
Mr. Riley said using the cleaned water "would just give us a cushion" for municipal use during a drought.
He said the town already tests its water annually for the chemicals found at the Black & Decker site.
The town's water supply was never contaminated by the chemicals, he said.
Mr. Riley said if the town decides to use cleaned water from Black & Decker, it may have to test it more often, perhaps monthly.
"A lot of towns in the United States are using water treated in exactly the same way," Mr. Riley said.
He said the town's possible use of some of the cleaned water does not alleviate Hampstead's major objection to the size of the Black & Decker's request -- that pumping such a large volume of water might permanently damage the aquifer on which the town depends for its drinking water supply.