Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Clearing up a murky situation at Konterra

Developer of 2,200-acre, mixed-use development in Laurel says it is working to keep Indian Creek clean

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Despite calls from local officials for further sanctions, Konterra developers said they have done their part to clean the water in Indian Creek.

The mayors of Berwyn Heights, College Park, Greenbelt and New Carrollton signed a July 29 letter calling for fines against Konterra for the increased levels of sediment in the creek. Indian Creek is a tributary to the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Konterra is a 2,200-acre, mixed-use development in Laurel with construction set to begin in late 2009.

Konterra spokeswoman Julie Chase said Konterra has been working since December 2007 to keep the water clear.

"If you look at the Indian Creek anywhere along Muirkirk Road, you will find clear water," she said. "As you go much further downstream, you have other developers and the water will become turbid. That is not our doing."

Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo's July 29 letter to the Maryland Department of the Environment said Indian Creek is turbid because of excess runoff of sediment coming from Konterra.

MDE, the body that can issue fines, received a similar letter in March from Greenbelt Mayor Judith Davis, who also signed Calvo's letter, calling for the continual monitoring of the creek.

"It has damaged the creek bed," she said. "There should be some mitigation or money that would pay to correct the situation and make it better."

Chase said Konterra has already paid to implement solutions, including seeding and the use of silt socks, which are fabric tubes filled with mulch that prevent runoff and erosion.

Chase said in total, Konterra developers have spent more than $100,000 on environmental projects since September.

Berwyn Heights Town Councilman Michael Attick said Konterra should still be subject to a fine.

"The water is still muddy to this day down in Berwyn Heights," Attick said. "I go by there every day, and if they think that's clear water they need glasses more than I do. I would like to actually be able to see things swimming in the water. That's clear."

But Lutz Rastaetter, secretary and treasurer of Citizens to Conserve and Restore Indian Creek, said the water in the creek has improved drastically over the summer.

"The situation in the stream has turned back to what it used to be," he said. "I've seen that is has improved since April and May. There's development in Beltsville and Vansville, so it never goes away completely."

Chase said that a Konterra site superintendent monitors the creek with a "handheld turbidity meter" between two and four times a month. The MDE also monitors the creek.

"We had an issue, we had unilaterally taken care of it, and we continue to take care of it," she said. "We're keeping things in place. There shouldn't be a problem, but if there is, that would be a trigger point for us to go out there."