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Impact of sewage spill in Piney Run spurs worry


When she took her youngest child to the bus stop yesterday morning, several children asked Lisa K. Cunningham what happened to Piney Run, the creek behind their homes where they play.

"I told them we would have to wait and see," said the Marriottsville resident and mother of four. "We just have an unfortunate situation."

The creek, a popular wading and fishing spot, was polluted when much of 2 million gallons of raw sewage spilled into it after vandals caused a sewer line to overflow between May 7 and Monday.

Cunningham and other residents of Jenna Estates, a group of new homes along Arrington Road, are meeting today with Carroll officials to discuss the spill and other water-related issues at the development.

Cunningham said she was upset that she knew nothing of the spill until she saw signs on several trees as she was walking her dog into the woods Tuesday. She said she would have preferred a personal warning.

"They posted signs, but they never bothered to let anybody know," Cunningham said. Cunningham's children and others in the neighborhood caught crawfish Monday in Piney Run, the day Carroll officials discovered the spill.

One of her children and several others had intestinal problems, she said, that she fears were a result of wading in the creek.

County health officials advise anyone who feels ill to consult a physician.

"Our advice always is to work with the family doctor," said Larry L. Leitch, director of Carroll County Health Department. "But, if you feel well, I would not worry. You are probably OK."

Carroll health workers posted nearly 200 warnings along the waterway, which flows into the Patapsco River.

The development is several miles downstream from Piney Run Reservoir, and the spill will not affect that body of water.

The signs warn against fishing, swimming or wading in the stream.

Residents should not walk along the shoreline where water might splash them, officials said.

"We got the signs up to warn people in and out of the area to stay away from the stream and not to fish in it," said Edwin F. Singer, the county's assistant director of environmental health. "We thought the signs were the best use of staff time."

Water contaminated with fecal matter can pose a health threat to humans because it contains viruses and other pathogens carried by human waste, said Singer.

Maryland State Police Lt. Terry L. Katz, Westminster barracks commander, said police have no suspects, but they expect to catch the perpetrators, who are presumed to be local juveniles.

State police are preparing a flier for distribution in the neighborhood, he said.

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