State OKs Permit for US Army Corps Dump in Earleville; But No Dumping Until Construction Starts on New Cecilton Waterline

December 24, 2014

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has issued a six-month permit to the US Army Corps of Engineers to allow renewed dumping of shipping channel dredge spoil at the Pearce Creek site the Corps owns in southern Cecil County. But dumping could not resume until construction begins on a seven-mile water pipeline from the Town of Cecilton to serve Earleville residents whose wells were polluted by the dump.

The state agency dismissed several concerns and requests from local residents, including calls for the provision of free bottled water from the time dumping resumed until the Cecilton waterline was fully operational. Such issues were “beyond the scope” of MDE’s authority or procedures for issuing the permit.

But the permit is conditional upon eventual completion of the Cecilton pipeline and further limits the onset of new dumping to coincide with the start of the pipeline’s construction.

Cecilton Mayor Joseph Zang, who initiated the concept of the water pipeline and worked to convince Corps and state officials of its feasibility, told Cecil Times that he anticipates construction could begin in the summer, before the Corps expects to resume dumping at Pearce Creek. So that condition of the state permit could be met, although completion of the pipeline and hook-ups to individual homes would take at least another year or more.

The decision by MDE was widely expected, after more than a year of negotiations among Corps, state and local officials, and the only remaining questions were what conditions MDE would impose before issuing a Water Quality Certification, which is required before dumping could occur.

The most significant of ten “special conditions” imposed were the requirement for the start of the Cecilton pipeline construction; additional requirements for monitoring of two local aquifers, on top of previously proposed test well monitoring of conditions on the dumpsite itself; and expansion of the number of contaminants for which testing is mandated.

Furthermore, the permit only covers a six-month period—from 10/1/15 through 3/31/16— for dredging spoils in the shipping channels of the Upper Bay from the C&D Canal at Chesapeake City. Future dredging after that time period will require a new or extended permit. And the language of the permit and accompanying documents makes clear that if the Corps fails to comply with all water quality and environmental requirements, the permit could be revoked at any time by MDE and all dumping halted.

The permit, dated 12/19/14, was signed by Elder A. Ghigiarelli, Jr., deputy program administrator of the MDE’s Wetlands and Waterways Program.

It has been more than 20 years since the Corps last dumped dredge spoils at the site, located at the end of Pond Neck Road, due to MDE concerns about pollution of drinking water wells in the area.

Those concerns were confirmed by an independent study by the US Geological Survey, which reported in January, 2013 that the Pearce Creek dump had polluted several aquifers serving the local drinking water supplies in three area communities: West View Shores, Bay View Estates, and Sunset Pointe.

The push to resume dumping in Earleville came from the Corps and the Maryland Port Administration (MPA), which oversees operations of the Port of Baltimore, because they had run out of other locations to dump shipping channel dredge spoils or deemed other options as too costly. MPA mounted a campaign to demonstrate the importance of the Port of Baltimore to the state economy and, in turn, the crucial role that dredging the shipping channels of the Upper Bay plays in the Port’s future.

The MPA has agreed to pay the more than $14 million in expected costs for extending the Cecilton water pipeline to the affected Earleville communities. Zang said that the final state grant to the town to pay for construction costs, which was conditional upon MDE’s issuance of the water quality permit, has been signed by the town and is now awaiting final approval in Annapolis.

With the approval of the state water permit, Zang said he anticipates that the town will be able to issue a “requests for proposal” for contractors seeking to build the pipeline in the spring, with a start of construction by summer.

“I’m excited” about the project, Zang said. “I think it’s really an amazing thing to have had everybody come together the way they did. I think it’s a win for everybody.”

Ken Cowley, a leader in the Bay View Estates homeowners association that played a key and active role in the issue, said it was “a major accomplishment” to get a state requirement for a clean water pipeline to serve the area. And he commended MDE for listening to his and other residents’ demands to expand the list of contaminants that must be tested for in future water quality monitoring for the dumpsite.

He said that for the first time the Corps would be required to test for Ph levels and total dissolved solids in water discharges from the site, two key components in previous pollution from the dump. “And the Cecil County government has to take a more active role in monitoring this, and reviewing the reports that the Corps will have to file,” Cowley added.

From the outset, MPA’s willingness to pay for the new water pipeline was conditioned on issuance of the water quality permit by MDE, prompting some local residents to see the situation as a form of ‘blackmail.’ No permit for new dumping, then no clean, safe water for residents who have endured decades of foul-tasting and smelling water, laden with varying levels of toxic substances.

In documents explaining its decision to issue the new permit, MDE implicitly acknowledged that conundrum and indicated that the promise of MPA money for the pipeline would lead to a better outcome for residents than if a permit were denied: “…the Department’s major concern is that the water supply project continue to move forward to completion to rectify/correct the impacts resulting from the past placement of dredged material at the Pearce Creek facility.”

And, MDE added, “If this [pipeline] requirement is not or cannot be met for any reason, MDE will require that all dredged material placement and discharges from the site be terminated.”

MDE stated that “although the department understands and appreciates the concerns” of residents that dumping would be resumed before the Cecilton line opens, “MDE believes” that the requirement to install a liner on the site and mandating compliance of all discharges with state water quality standards means that new dumping “will not exacerbate the current conditions that exist” in the area.

MDE also rejected citizens’ calls for relocating a “sluice box” which drains water off dredge spoil deposits. The Corps initially proposed moving the current site’s “sluice box” from the Pearce Creek site itself to a distant point in the adjacent Elk River– but then dropped that plan because it would be $1 million cheaper to keep the sluice in its current location. Citizens advocated the Elk River discharge point since the current location point has been blamed for depositing slimy and smelly black muck on nearby beaches.

MDE contended that it didn’t matter where the discharge point was located because the new permit would require all water discharges to comply fully with state water quality standards.

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10 Responses to State OKs Permit for US Army Corps Dump in Earleville; But No Dumping Until Construction Starts on New Cecilton Waterline

  1. Mara Johnston on December 24, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    There is only one person who can take credit, and deserves the thanks and respect of southern Cecil County residents, in all of this mess over the dump and pollution. And that is Joseph Zang, the mayor of Cecilton.

    Mr. Zang didn’t have to step up to the plate and work hard to find a solution for a lot of residents who don’t live in his town and cant vote in the town elections. But Mr. Zang showed that he is not all about politics as usual and actually cares about doing the right thing for Cecil county as a whole.

    Where was our county executive in all this? Nowhere to be seen or heard. If the mayor of Cecilton didn’t step in there would be no solution at all for the Earleville people. A big thank you to Joe Zang from the residents of Earleville.

  2. Joe C on December 25, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Ms. Johnston the answer is: Our county executive was too busy endorsing a liberal, gun grabbing candidate for county executive in Howard County! Luckily the voters were smarter than to fall for this trick and elected Mr. Allan Kittleman. Happy New Year.

    • Ron Lobos on December 27, 2014 at 9:51 am

      Joe, the county executive endorsed Courtney Watson so that she could help Tari with the economic development of Cecil County. Just because Courtney Watson was defeated in her quest for County Executive, there’s no reason for Tari not to continue to tutor under her. I am anxious to see what successful ideas Courtney has, whether Tari implements these ideas and how successful these ideas are for our economic development.

      All good conservatives should continue to press [Tari Moore] for answers to this question since this was her reason for that endorsement. One last thing; Tari has been in office for 2 years now and has only had 1 Town Hall. Without regular Town Halls, how is Tari able to feel the pulse of the Cecil County citizens?

      Unlike being a Councilman who has the opportunity to listen to public comment and Citizens Corner at the bi weekly meetings, when does she actually make herself available to the public at our convenience?

  3. Joe C on December 27, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    I am not sure she can face the truth. The record of higher fees and service charges cannot be defended, especially when the citizens find out that sewer rates are being raised to provide incentives to special interest and campaign contributors. Read the new water and sewer plan!

    As far as I see we have had negative economic development. Another company is leaving Cecil County for another state and 51 employees will lose their jobs. We need to totally rethink economic development and make it an incentive position that the person responsible will receive pay based on the value of the economic enhancement for Cecil County.

    • Ron Lobos on January 3, 2015 at 7:27 am

      I have just tried to contact Tari Moore on Facebook and personally request a Town Hall. I feel it is long overdue. Only one problem, Tari has blocked me from her page. I’m not sure what she is afraid of or even what she may want to hide. For the record, out of respect, I have never used her Facebook page to voice any of my opinions against her.

      • Ron Lobos on January 3, 2015 at 10:01 am

        I should note that I am still allowed on her commissioner facebook page. So because of this , it is only fair to mention those first two sentences from the above post.

      • BJ on January 5, 2015 at 8:42 am

        Wow, Ron, I can’t imagine why you would be blocked from anyone’s page with comments like “I’m not sure what she is afraid of” or “what she may want to hide”.

        What is it that you’re afraid of that you don’t just pick up the phone and call, or send her an email? That is how normal professionals communicate, rather than depending on Facebook.

        • Ron Lobos on January 11, 2015 at 1:58 pm

          BJ, try to comprehend what I just said. Those comments I said were made after I was blocked from her page. Your sarcasm is off the mark. Your comprehension skills need to be worked on.

          • BJ on January 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

            My comprehension skills are just fine, Ron. But yours could be questioned if you’re speculating you’ve been blocked because you think she’s afraid or hiding something.

            The point I’m trying to make is that if you want to be taken seriously, Facebook is not the place to conduct your communication.

  4. Natasha Shealy on December 8, 2015 at 11:29 pm

    I am wondering that since many people’s wells were affected by this dumping, my grandmother’s was one of them, years ago. Did anyone sue the Corps or whoever was responsible for it? I lived in West View Shores all my youth and when we had Lester Water Conditoner system in there the man that had served it for us said that we had the worst water he had seen in Cecil County.

    …We couldnt even wash our clothes in the water because the iron level was so bad. After I showered, it turned white clothes that I wear a rusty color where my hair would lay. I don’t even think showering with our water really got us clean because it was that bad. If anyone has any information about the outcome can you please let me know and thanks.

    CECIL TIMES REPLIES: Natasha, no local residents sued the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps denied there was any problem for decades, and a small community has no clout against the federal government and would have bankrupted themselves on legal fees. It was only when an independent agency, the US Geological Survey, issued a report in January, 2014 that the Corps was found responsible. And the only reason the Corps is doing anything to clean it up is because they want to dump even more polluted dredge spoils there and the state is forcing them to act to get a permit to dump.

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