MRWA reports Hurlock water quality has improved

HURLOCK — At the May 8 Hurlock council meeting Town Administrator John Avery reported that for about two years he has worked with Maryland Rural Water Assn. (MRWA) to study the town’s drinking water. The association employs technicians and specialists as “circuit riders” who visit water and wastewater systems state-wide to ensure the security, safety and availability of affordable drinking water and the proper treatment of wastewater.

At its recent conference MRWA recognized the town’s efforts to ensure water quality. A 2017 source water protection award read:

“The residents of this town in Dorchester County receive their water from two wells. One is in a shallow aquifer and the other is in the deeper, Piney Point aquifer. In response to residential and town government concerns MRWA was contacted by the town to review the quantity and quality of their drinking water. A source water protection plan was developed with input from the town administrator and plant operators. As a result it was revealed that water quality has in fact improved. The town will continue to pursue further water sourcing but it is glad to know that improved quality of their drinking water will give them time to develop long term options. There is no new water in our lives. We consume what we can take from the ground and surface water and then release it back. Their dedication to delivering safe quality drinking water goes hand in hand with their work in reducing nitrate and phosphorus release from their state of the art wastewater treatment plant.”

Mr. Avery explained that because groundwater moves towards the shallow well, reducing fertilizers and salt on winter roads will help prevent leakage into the shallow aquifer and further reduce nitrates.

In his Treasurer’s report Mr. Avery reported that the town funded about $500,000 in engineering fees, inspection fees, and furniture for the two main projects completed in the FY2017 budget: Water main replacement and construction of the new police station. Despite spending $230,000 in road improvements, he said, “we were still able to maintain the same level in the accounts we have.”

Councilman Charles Cephas asked about plans for infrastructure replacement and repair. “The water quality report is excellent but we have an aging infrastructure system. Have the engineers gotten back to you (with cost estimates)?”

Mr. Avery answered, “It is in budget for next year. This year is recoating the clarifier tanks at the wastewater treatment plant. We are going out to bid soon.” He said he has applied every year for grant funding to replace the Jackson St. pumping station and not received approval. They will apply again this year. Funding may be part grants, maybe a loan, or some loan forgiveness. The estimated cost for the station is $1.5 – 2 million. Mr. Avery said water main replacement will continue.

The administrator further reported that under the water main project 9 fire hydrants were replaced. Of the 120 total hydrants there are 14 new ones and 34 were cleaned, renovated, and serviced.

In addition, he added, “When East Coast Underground left we purchased four trucks for $12,000 total. One is a small dump truck; another is Ford truck with a utility bed and a small crane on the back to let us service fire hydrants with one person instead of 2 or 3; public works is using a third truck and the fourth will replace one of the older trucks. “Those trucks will service the town for quite a few years.”

Hurlock Volunteer Fire Co. Chief R.J. Helmer reported since March 27 there have been: 98 fire calls, 85 EMS calls, 10 reported active fires, 2 brush fires, 6 motor vehicle crashes, 2 automatic fire alarms, 12 assisted paramedic units, 3 vehicle fires, and 3 miscellaneous calls to assist.

Police Chief Les Hutton said from April 21 to May 5 a shed was broken into, 4 thefts, 1 motor vehicle (Quad), 2 criminal citations for disorderly conduct, a criminal citation for drunk and disorderly, a criminal citation for trespassing, 1 DWI, 1 overdose, and 3 malicious destruction of property. Criminal citations are being written in lieu of putting people in jail for disorderly conduct based on state preference. “In some ways it’s good for us as a small department because we don’t have to process them, take them to Cambridge. That’s 2 or 3 hours. Now we write the citation and send them on the way, but some people need to go to jail.”

Mayor Joyce Spratt said the fundraiser for Councilman Russell Murphy is scheduled for May 21, 2 pm at the East New Market firehouse with some tickets still available at the town office. The effort to raise money to defray the monumental expenses required for Mr. Murphy’s cancer treatment promises to deliver a lot for the $15 ticket price. The AUCE meal and loads of auction items are worth the price of admission. Mr. Murphy said he is “humbled” by the concern shown by the community.

The recent car show sponsored by C&J Market and Deli was so successful partners James Cheney and Charlene Hurley plan a second show on May 27, 4-8 pm with profits donated to the Hurlock Veterans’ Memorial Park Fund.

The mayor noted that the Hurlock Lions Club offered to donate funds for three flagpoles planned for the 5-way intersection in front of the “hotel.” Volunteers will create a garden at the spot as well.

Councilman Earl Murphy raised the issue of grass clippings being blown into the street and clogging storm drains. He reiterated a 3-tier process suggested in 2015 and again in fall 2016 as a potential ordinance: First, a letter to residents who are putting clippings in the streets; second, a $50 fine; third, a $100 fine. A long discussion ensued concerning potential fees and/or fines.

Attorney Robert Merriken said proposed ordinance 2015-10 suggested a fine “not exceeding $100.” The proposal was tabled at the time. Mr. Merriken will write the ordinance using the 3 step process. In response to a question about who will report violations, Mr. Avery said, “The code enforcement officer is the appropriate person to monitor the ordinance.” He explained that a fee is charged only when the town cuts overgrown grass on an empty or abandoned lot. “Anything else that has been done has been done without fines.”

During council member comments, Councilman Russell Murphy announced the town’s Beautification project, which he chairs, is now underway. It will run from May through September with monthly prizes for the best looking yards. He re-emphasized the importance of backing into a driveway. and noted it is “dangerous to back into traffic, with the possibility of running over children or pets.”

During public comments, Pat Finley suggested that the county Social Services department be utilized for educational purposes to help families whose young children are out late at night or otherwise in trouble. Chief Hutton concurred and explained that his department works with HUD homeowners and renters. “When parents think they are going to lose their house it’s amazing how they straighten up.” He agreed that contacting Social Services is a good resource.
Ken Heesh, president of Concerned Citizens of Northern Dorchester, reported that the plan for vertical expansion of the Beulah landfill is back on the table and a public hearing is tentatively slated for June 6. “You can already see that landfill from inside the town limits. When they double the height it will be the most prominent feature you’ll see.”

“The County Council has had 3 years to come up with a different plan but they haven’t bothered. While they’ve been telling people publicly and privately that their plans are not to do the vertical expansion or do only a small portion of it, the Waste Management Plan given to MDE (MD Department of the Environment) shows differently.” He said the expansion would be good for about 4 years and would be followed by a 67 acre new landfill near the railroad tracks off of Gravel Branch Road.

“At the same time they’ve also given support to the Eastern Shore Scenic Railroad committee to open the spur from Hurlock to Preston as a scenic railroad.”

Mayor Spratt asked if the County Council has given its approval to go vertically not horizontally. Mr. Heesh answered, “Actually they’ve made the decision to do both.” Councilman Cephas said “they should have an impact study.” Mr. Heesh agreed, “Has the council contacted you at all?” Rev. Cephas said, “No.” He added, “They have to address the whole county because it affects the whole county.”

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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