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Hampstead protests Black & Decker decision


Hampstead Mayor Clint Becker has written to Gov. William Donald Schaefer to protest the state's decision to allow Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. of Hampstead to use hundreds of thousands of gallons of ground water each day.

In his Nov. 23 letter, Mayor Becker requested a meeting with the governor or his staff to discuss the Black & Decker water use permit.

"We want him to review the amount that is being withdrawn from the aquifer," Mayor Becker said yesterday. "We think it's too much.

"I don't think this permit has gotten the attention it should have," because it allows Black & Decker to draw from the same underground water table that provides Hampstead's only water supply, the mayor said.

"We considered all of the information," said Terrance W. Clark, chief of the Water Rights Division.

The Water Rights Division is part of the Water Resources Administration in the state Department of Natural Resources.

The Water Resources Administration issued a permit Nov. 19 that allows Black & Decker to pump an annual average of 432,000 gallons of ground water a day from 10 wells at its Hampstead plant. The pumping is part of a company project to contain and clean up polluted ground water under the plant.

Black & Decker plans to pump the ground water to create suction that would prevent underground contamination from leaving the site. The water pumped out of the ground will be treated to remove the pollutants, and any of the water that is not used at the plant will be released into a local stream.

Mayor Becker told the governor that a consultant for the town of Hampstead and a hydrogeologist working for the Carroll County Bureau of Water Resource Management had written to the Water Rights Division in June. They questioned the amount of water requested by Black & Decker.

They also expressed concern that the large-scale withdrawal of ground water may reduce the local water table, which could affect nearby residential wells and possibly cause long-term damage to the area's aquifer.

Mayor Becker said the permit allows Black & Decker to pump 720,000 gallons a day in peak months, much more than the town's average usage of about 300,000 gallons a day.

Mr. Clark said there is some confusion in the community about why the state granted a permit for such a large amount of water.

He said that in a typical water appropriation request, such as one for industrial use, the Water Rights Division normally would grant a permit to withdraw only the amount of water that would be replenished by rainfall during a drought year.

However, Mr. Clark said, unless Black & Decker withdraws all the water that falls as rain on the site, the underground contamination will continue to spread. So, the division granted the company a water appropriation large enough to allow Black & Decker to withdraw all the water falling on the site even in a high-rainfall year.

Mayor Becker said the state should issue the permit on a month-by-month basis.

In his letter to the governor, Mayor Becker also complained that the permit includes "no front-end provision to allow the town to use any of the water. It is all wasted. During a hot, dry summer, this could be disastrous."

The town had earlier expressed interest in using some of the treated water. But the permit does not require Black & Decker to allow the town of Hampstead to use any of the water.

The cover letter sent with the permit to Black & Decker said the Water Resources Administration "encourages Black & Decker to evaluate the re-use of treated water by the Town of Hampstead."

The cover letter also said the administration "is committed to meeting with representatives of Black & Decker and the Town after the remediation system has been in use for about six months."

Mr. Clark said it did not seem appropriate to force Black & Decker to give the water to the town as a condition of the permit.

But the ground water will not be wasted, he said. Some will be used by Black & Decker, and the rest will be released into a nearby stream. Anyone owning property along the stream could apply for a permit to use the water, he said.

Mayor Becker said the town does not have access to the stream.

Mayor Becker said the Hampstead town attorney is looking into a possible appeal of the permit decision.

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