September 26, 2008

Sewage Spill Shuts Down Bear Neck

By E.B. FURGURSON III Staff Writer

Yesterday, just one day after a fish kill left the shores along Bear Neck Creek lined with dead menhaden, the county closed the creek due to a sewage spill.

Construction crews working near the Mayo Water Reclamation Plant yesterday morning broke pipes attached to the main line coming in and out of the facility, spilling about 50,000 gallons, officials said.

The Anne Arundel County Department of Health issued an emergency order closing the creek, warning residents to avoid any water contact from the headwaters of Bear Neck Creek down to Whitemarsh Creek.

On Tuesday a fish kill on the creek piled more than 40,000 dead menhaden on the creek's shores in the same area.

"About 95 percent of the spill had already been treated," Department of Public Works spokesman Matt Diehl said. "And repairs were made in about 75 minutes."

The health department took water samples looking for bacteria and closed the creek until further notice.

"The creek will probably be closed through the weekend," health department spokesman Elin Jones said. "We won't get our first tests back until

Friday. And we need two consecutive days of passable samples before we reopen the creek."

"It's not a good time to be Bear Neck Creek, is it?" West/Rhode Riverkeeper Chris Trumbauer said upon hearing the news. "Talk about adding insult to injury. After an algae bloom like the one suspected in the fish kill, the last thing you want to do is to add more nutrients to the creek."

He had been on the same stretch of the creek Tuesday to check on the massive fish kill.

County officials advised people who have come in contact with the affected water to wash with soap and warm water immediately. Clothing should also be washed.

Mr. Diehl said a construction company, Schummer Inc. of Edgewater, hit the pipe at around 10 a.m. while digging at the intersection of Central Avenue and Selby Heights Drive. The work was related to the Heron Cove development, a 26-home project adjacent to Bear Neck Creek.

It took county crews 1 hour and 15 minutes to repair the damage, Mr. Diehl said.

The Mayo sewage facility has been scheduled for an upgrade for several years. Construction on the plant expansion has been held up for four years as the county negotiates with the Maryland Department of the Environment over the location of the outfall pipe for the new plant.

MDE officials have not approved construction of the $17.5 million sewage treatment plant - originally planned to be built by 2004 - because the outfall pipe would dump effluent too close to a protected shellfish area in the Rhode River.

The delay caused the county to impose a development moratorium last month in the Mayo area stretching from Loch Haven Road to the end of the Mayo Peninsula, which juts out into the South and Rhode rivers. The moratorium was set because the current Mayo wastewater plant has reached its capacity, save for another 49 homes. People wanting to build in the area must be one of those 49 or will have to wait until the new plant is built.

Meanwhile, area residents who want to keep tabs on the status of the closing, can call the county Water Quality Line at 410-222- 7999, or visit the Health Department's Web site at

Residents can also sign up to receive free e-mail alerts when a county waterway is closed or reopened, or when an advisory is issued by the department, by visiting {Corrections:} {Status:}


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