Calling the Campus Hills water system in Harford County a "menace" to public health, state officials have ordered the owner of the private water company to turn over its management to a "competent," state-approved operator by today or go to court.
The Maryland Department of the Environment on Monday gave Charles C. Edwards, owner of the Campus Hills Water Works, three days to hire "a competent person or organization" to take charge of the system and bring it into compliance with state-ordered improvements.
The three-well system, which serves 72 homes and 18 businesses in the Churchville area, including the Campus Hills shopping center, has been plagued by problems since June, when the first of two water-main breaks occurred, leaving residents without water for several days.
Later that month, service was disrupted again, and evidence of fecal coliform bacteria was found in one of the three wells. Many residents have been drinking bottled water since last summer and have complained of low pressure and discolored water.
After repeated orders from the Department of the Environment to make repairs, Dr. Edwards, a Baltimore physician, and the state signed a consent order July 30 requiring improvements to the system. But few of the repairs were made, said Dane Bauer, deputy director of the water management administration at a Board of Health meeting Tuesday night.
"A lot was done, but a lot was not," he said, noting that "our biggest concern has been in the quality of the water."
He said that while the contaminated well was repaired last summer, it was found to be contaminated again in September and was ordered shut Oct. 5. It is still out of service and remains contaminated with fecal coliform bacteria.
The company has also failed to raise the casing on another well, leaving it buried and vulnerable to contamination, he said.
Because only two of the three wells are operating, Mr. Bauer said, the community remains without a standby water supply and, if a second well were closed, the system could not meet average daily demand. In addition, he said, repairs to a corroded water storage tank were not made, and a leak detection analysis was not completed.
The state order to hire another operator is highly unusual, said Mr. Bauer. "The department has not done this more than a half-dozen times in the last 10 or 12 years."
Mr. Bauer said if the owner does not hire an operator by today, the department can seek a court order requiring him to do so.
"And we're preparing to be in court next week, if necessary," he said.
Dr. Edwards bought the 23-year-old Campus Hills Water Works in 1988.