PRINCESS ANNE– Somerset County officials are scheduled to meet this evening in Baltimore with Gov. Martin O’Malley and Secretary of the Environment Shari Wilson to address ongoing issues with the local water supply.
The meeting is likely to be a roundtable discussion — first proposed by Wilson several weeks ago — on how to resolve the conflict, said County Administrator Dan Powell.
“As far as I know, that’s what their intent is,” he said. “I haven’t seen an agenda.”
For the past two years, state officials have refused to issue permits for the wells in the Patapsco aquifer unless the county builds a reverse osmosis treatment system, which has been estimated to cost $13.5 million.
County officials have argued the treatment system is unnecessary and would be costly for water customers.
In March, the Sanitary Commission agreed to take legal action against the Maryland Department of the Environment if Wilson continued to deny the permits.
So far, no lawsuit has been filed as both sides continue discussions.
The decision to take legal action came a week after a meeting between Somerset officials and Wilson as part of an ongoing effort to get more water for Princess Anne’s public system, which has been stressed by drought and other problems.
Although MDE officials have offered to find grant funds to help pay for the construction of a reverse osmosis treatment system, customers in Princess Anne would likely see large increases in fees to cover the cost of its operation, which county officials say is unfair.
Wilson has said treatment is necessary to reduce fluoride to 2 milligrams per liter under goals established by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The water in the Revells Neck Road wells measures slightly higher.
However, county officials have argued that the fluoride level in the wells is considered acceptable under federal standards for drinking water and that Wilson has no authority to deny the permits based only on goals that have never been adopted as enforceable standards by the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the meantime, the Sanitary Commission is in the process of rehabilitating several older wells and drilling two new ones in the Manokin aquifer, which has had declining levels in recent years.
Although the work is expected to make some new water allocations available, it still won’t be enough for all of the construction projects on hold.