School officials have announced that they will recommend to the Howard County Board of Education at its meeting Thursday that a wastewater treatment plant be built on the property of Glenelg High School.
If the school board agrees, the decision could resolve a contentious western Howard issue.
Community members and school and county officials have debated for about 10 months how to add 400 seats at Glenelg without overwhelming the school's septic system.
In the announcement Friday, Associate Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said the existing septic system has been failing for some time and its problems need to be addressed before an addition can be built.
An initial study didn't explore the Glenelg option for fear of opposition to discharging treated water into the Triadelphia Reservoir watershed. Instead, the school board considered other options, including condemning adjacent farmland to expand the septic drain field, or building a $2 million plant at nearby Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School, which would empty the treated wastewater into a nonreservoir stream.
Each option stirred opposition.
County officials argued that it is Howard policy to keep the western county rural by not extending water and sewer lines, and the owner of the farm next to Glenelg High refused to sell. In addition, residents near Triadelphia Ridge Elementary opposed the plan to locate the system there because they feared odors and pollution of local water wells.
After months of dispute, which have caused at least a one-year delay in building the high school addition, officials determined that building a treatment plant at Glenelg might be the wisest solution.
"Of all the options presented," Cousin said, "this is the least expensive. And it will work just as well as the other options."
Those who oppose this proposal fear that small wastewater plants could pop up all over the western county, threatening the purity of local well water and lowering property values. Community opposition leader Albert DeRemegis and other detractors have said they don't like the idea of building wastewater treatment plants, but that if a plant is unavoidable, they'd rather have one at the high school than elsewhere.
It is not known how strongly the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission would oppose the emptying of 36,000 gallons a day of treated wastewater into creeks that ultimately drain into the Triadelphia Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to thousands of customers in Howard and Montgomery counties.
"We're going to try to work with them to try to alleviate any concerns that they may have," Cousin said, adding that the treated wastewater should not adversely affect the reservoir.
Still, Cousin said, he believes the commission will have objections.
"This is by necessity a long, drawn-out process, and it's not over," Cousin said.
The school board will vote on the proposal at its meeting Thursday.
Even considering the commission's possible objections, the project is scheduled to be completed in August 2002, Cousin said.
Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.