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Balto. Co. agrees to fix aging sewers, pay fine


The Baltimore County Council approved last night a settlement with state and federal officials that calls for the county to make more than $800 million in repairs and improvements to its sewer system and pay a $750,000 fine.

Under the consent decree, the county would not only fix existing problems but also actively try to prevent future sewage spills through an evaluation of its 3,000 miles of sewer lines and 111 pumping stations, county officials said.

The fine was assessed for past spills, according to officials.

The agreement, which would give the county 14 1/2 years to make its changes and upgrades, is much like others negotiated with jurisdictions across the country, including Baltimore City, in recent years to address violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The city agreed in 2002 to make $900 million in sewer improvements and pay a $600,000 fine.

Under the consent decree, the county would also take part in three environmental projects at an estimated cost of $4.5 million.

If approved and signed by all parties, the agreement would eventually be filed in federal court, county officials said.

Last night's council vote authorizes County Executive James T. Smith Jr. to sign the settlement papers on behalf of the county.

In other business last night, council members approved a new "renaissance opportunity area" that includes the Middle River Depot, a 1.9 million-square-foot structure that once housed an airplane factory and is being sold by the U.S. General Services Administration.

Neighbors have said they worry that the property's current zoning - heavy manufacturing - would attract a buyer interested in locating a factory or distribution center there.

The "renaissance opportunity" designation, contained in a bill introduced by council Chairman Joseph Bartenfelder, allows for the possibility of a more community-driven design and decision-making process under legislation approved by the council in December.

Council members also approved last night the appointment of Merreen E. Kelly of Cockeysville to the five-member Baltimore County Revenue Authority.

Kelly, who served as county administrative officer under two county executives, will serve out the remainder of the term of Stephen A. Burch, president of the Atlantic Division of Comcast Cable, who resigned his post on the quasi-governmental board last month.

The appointment met with no resistance from council members during Kelly's confirmation hearing June 14.

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