Carroll County is short of workers needed to truck sewage from Francis Scott Key High School to Runnymede Elementary, where it is cleaned and discharged, and county officials would like the school board to take over the responsibility.
In addition, the temporary permit that allows the county to haul the sewage runs out June 22, two weeks after classes end for the summer.
"If someone can't haul ... " Gary Horst, Carroll's director of enterprise and recreation services, said in a meeting with the county commissioners yesterday. " ... Then we can't operate the school," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, finishing the sentence. "We have a lot of work to do."
Horst would like the school board to handle the hauling, which he said is straining the resources of his department, which oversees all the county's water and sewer systems.
He said the department should have five certified operators, whose responsibilities include transportation of sewage from one school to the other. But because of recent resignations, he has three operators and one in training.
The school plant at Runnymede is oversized and capable of handling the transported wastewater, but the county views that as a short-term solution. The commissioners made no decision yesterday on transferring the hauling responsibility to the school board or applying for another temporary permit from the Carroll County Health Department.
Instead, they focused on getting the high school's treatment plant into operation. The $768,000 plant has been idled for the past three years because Carroll schools built it without obtaining the required state permits.
If approved, a discharge permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment would allow the county to release treated wastewater from the high school plant into nearby wetlands. The state would require Carroll to monitor the effluent, including its nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia levels.
Doug Myers, Carroll's director of public works, said the county has met all the state's criteria for the high school plant and is waiting for MDE to schedule a public hearing, perhaps within the next six weeks.
"We have all agreed on the draft permit application," said Myers. "Now we need public input before MDE decides. The ball is in the state's court."
At the commissioners' insistence, Myers said he would write immediately to MDE asking for a hearing. But he said wastewater will need to be transported from the high school for one more school year.
In other action yesterday, the commissioners approved a plan to reapply for a state grant to pay for extending water lines from Westminster to Maple Crest, a community on Hook Road near Route 32.
Horst also reported on meetings with residents of Detour, Mayberry and Union Mills to determine the need for public utilities. Union Mills was the only community that wants to pursue the issue. The county will conduct an environmental survey of about 65 homes in the village along Route 97.
"We will be knocking on doors to get information on septic systems and wells," Horst said.