PRINCESS ANNE — After a five-year wait, state officials have issued a permit for two wells that had been the subject of a lawsuit scheduled to be heard next week in Circuit Court.
A copy of the permit arrived by fax Thursday, an hour before the start of the Somerset County Sanitary Commission meeting.
“They’re hot off the press,” said Sanitary District Manager Robin Street as he handed out copies of the 10-page document during the meeting.
As part of an agreement signed in August with the Maryland Department of the Environment, the Sanitary Commission is expected to dismiss the lawsuit now that permits have been issued for two wells on Revells Neck Road next to Eastern Correctional Institution.
The lawsuit was filed last year after MDE officials refused to issue permits unless the county agreed to treat the water to reduce FLUORIDE.
On Thursday, Sanitary Commission members said they would have their attorney, Robin Cockey, review the permit first before dismissing the lawsuit. In the meantime, the case has been stayed.
In a second agreement with Maryland Environmental Service and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Sanitary Commission will provide some of its water from the new wells to ECI.
In exchange, MES, which operates water and sewer systems at the prison, will treat Princess Anne’s water with a new reverse osmosis system.
While the Sanitary Commission will be responsible for the cost of drilling the wells and constructing a water tower, the state will use federal stimulus funds for the construction of the reverse osmosis plant at ECI.
Since reverse osmosis is an expensive treatment method, costs to the Sanitary District will be capped so that customers won’t have excessive water bills.
In spite of the new agreements, getting the wells online is probably two years away, Street said.
The water shortage in Princess Anne, combined with the delay in getting the well permits, has caused $64 million in new construction projects to be put on hold in the town.