RISING SUN — Town officials are revisiting the method that was used to cut costs on its new water line to do the same with its expansion plans of water and sewer service to a handful of homes with tainted wells.
When Rising Sun was designing the route its water distribution line would take from the Chester Water Authority in neighboring Pennsylvania into town the decision was made to arrange for the line to travel under farm fields en route to the water storage tower rather than dig up roads.
“We’re saving the taxpayers about $400,000 by not digging up the road,” Calvin Bonenberger, town administrator said in Feb. 2018, adding that to follow the road meant obtaining more than 30 easements. Instead the project only needed about a half dozen easements, which included one free future water hook up for each.
Now Rising Sun will avoid digging up roads once again by obtaining small easements on property along Route 273 en route to a cluster of homes off Wilson Road that have requested the town’s water service.
In 2008 11 homeowners along Telegraph and Wilson Roads asked the Cecil County Health Department to test their well water for nitrates and found levels as high as 50 parts per million, when the federal standard is 10 ppm.
A 2010 consent decree against the now closed fertilizer and farm supply business on Wilson Road gave Southern States several remediation options.
“One was to drill a community well,” Bonenberger said. Like a homeowners association, residents would then be financially responsible for upkeep of the system. “It could be expensive and need maintenance and oversight.”
The other was to connect to a public utility, such as Rising Sun’s.
Southern States approached Rising Sun asking about connecting the affected homes at their cost to replace the tainted wells.
“Seven properties were purchased by Southern States as part of a settlement,” Bonenberger told the mayor and commissioners at the town meeting Tuesday.
Now the work has begun to bring that connection to the remaining affected houses. Part of the process was obtaining easements for less than 4 acres of land from Rising Sun town limits to where the state allows the town to use its right-of-way to run the water and sewer lines.
“We paid $100 for each of the (three) easements,” Bonenberger said Two parcels are part of the Albeck farm, with the remaining parcel part of Meadows Farm.
The easements would also be annexed into town.
“They are only annexing the 30 foot wide easement. We are not taking them under eminent domain and we are not telling them they cannot farm.” It does not change the agricultural zoning.
Like the easements arranged during installation of the distribution lines, he said each property owner also gets one free hook up for water and sewer service, if requested.
“It’s completely voluntary,” he said.
He added, if the annexation is approved, the land would not incur any town property tax because it would not require any town services. The town ran into that same issue several years ago when property lines were straightened out to clarify old boundaries, or legacy lines. The hiccup in the plan came when the old parcel ID numbers triggered a separate property tax bill for tracts so small each could never be developed. The town erased those tax bills.