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Skeptical East Hernando residents pepper officials with questions about water treatment plans

BROOKSVILLE — A standing-room-only crowd of Ridge Manor West residents grilled Hernando County Utilities officials Wednesday, questioning why the county plans a new water treatment plant, storage tanks and a well field adjacent to their residential community.

Not only is the location a bad to idea, they said, but they also questioned what type of analysis was involved in picking the 17.6-acre site, north of Cortez Boulevard running along the west side of Sherman Hills Boulevard.

They wondered whether they would need to buy flood insurance or if their wells would fail when the county goes from the 600,000 gallons of water pumped daily now from a nearby well to an anticipated 4.8 million gallons.

They voiced concerns about sinkholes forming, property values plummeting, chemicals polluting their neighborhood and the water being sold to another community. Some speculated that a large, secret development is being planned nearby.

Some of the residents demanded to see hydrogeological reports that would prove sinkholes won't form and wells won't fail, and an analysis showing that their property values won't fall. While Angel Roussel, the county Utilities Department's engineering division manager, couldn't make those promises, he did promise that, by the end of the week, existing reports will be posted on the county's website.

Roussel also repeatedly told residents the site was chosen because it provides the most efficient way of providing regional water treatment. He explained that to rezone the land, Utilities officials had to lay out a site plan for a future they can't yet predict.

In November, the County Commission agreed to pay $470,000 to purchase the land from Lee Pallardy Inc. Profit Sharing and 401K Plan, contingent upon a rezoning approval. The current zoning for the property would allow construction of 244 duplex and multi-family residential units.

Future plans for the site include two water storage tanks that together could hold as much as 4 million gallons, plus as many as nine wells.

Tentative public hearing dates on the rezoning are Feb. 10 before the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission and March 11 before the County Commission.

Residents have already collected more than 300 signatures on a petition opposing the rezoning.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Skeptical East Hernando residents pepper officials with questions about water treatment plans 01/15/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 8:00pm]
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