Ongoing concern about managing a 30-year-old heating oil spill at the hospital here brought Maryland Department of the Environment, University of Maryland Shore Regional Health and the Chestertown Council together to discuss on going remediation efforts that provide protections for the town’s drinking water plant — just 1,200 feet downhill from the spill.
Local media was not given access to the Zoom meeting, which up until now has been a standard practice for the town in the age of COVID-19. So there was no ability for reporters to ask questions on behalf of residents of the town.
However, Ward 1 Councilman David Foster was kind enough to sit down and discuss his thoughts on the meeting and his concerns going forward about protecting the water supply.
In the interview, Foster discusses the new controversial testing method being used by Shore Health to claim the water is safe and his concerns about whether the time is right to turn off the containment system at the hospital that has kept oil from migrating offsite in the direction of the water plant. The containment system is a series of pumps and recovery wells that pulls the oil closer to the center of the spill site.
For nearly a decade Shore Health has sought permission from MDE to turn off the containment system. In 2012 MDE granted Shore Health approval to turn off the system and subsequently oil began to move, which resulted in an emergency reactivation of the containment system. The town was unaware of the shutdown until the containment system had to be reactivated.
Foster discusses the lack transparency with MDE and the hospital over the years that has left citizens in the dark about the ongoing remediation efforts. Foster also gives his take on the hospital’s new consultant that came on board after an unauthorized shutdown of the containment system this past spring. He said he walked away from the meeting feeling cautiously optimistic about the town’s future working relationship with MDE and Shore Health.