The Spy recently checked in with Chestertown Mayor David Foster for an update on his current concerns.
Foster sees two standout issues requiring a similar solution: the uptick in Covid Delta infections in Kent County and the lingering threat of heating oil remaining underground on the hospital’s property.
Both issues challenge the public confidence, he says.
To contain the spread of the virus, Foster urges people to be vaccinated and recommends wearing masks indoors whether vaccinated or not.
“This particular variant now accounts for 85% of infections, and we encourage everybody to get vaccinated,” he says. The Mayor also recommends masks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated while indoors, adding that regard for others is critical to maintaining community health/
“Please don’t let anybody tell you that those who refuse to get vaccinated are only hurting themselves. The unvaccinated impact our hospitals, the cost of our healthcare system and provide a reservoir for the virus to mutate and replicate and create a strain even more dangerous.”
Foster’s second concern is the 34-year-old hospital oil spill, half of which may remain underground, possibly as much 86,000 gallons. The long process to contain, monitor, and remediate its threat to Chestertown’s water supply has a history of policy of disregard and misinformation.
While there is no immediate risk because of pumping and treatment, the question becomes “what if these systems fail or if someone decides that the all the oil has been recovered,” when in fact that might not be the case.”
“That’s where we need to protect public confidence,” he says.
Foster cites a 2011 incident as an example of a fractured public trust. The hospital turned off the pumping, and monitoring wells were shut down for over a year without telling anyone. More than two feet of oil were discovered in one of the monitoring wells. A similar incident went unreported as recent as last year, he says.
The issue is sensitive for another reason, Foster says. For Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) to fine the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) hurts all of us.
‘We’ve got to find a better way to get the attention of UMMS and MDE and insisting on the Town being a full participant on ongoing solutions and that all plans to be fully transparent, Foster says. “We’re not for imposing fines on ourselves, but we’ve got to get their attention.”
Foster feels sees the town in an awkward position with the advent of the hospital’s new incarnation as Maryland’s first designated rural health care facility and offering a host of new services for county residents.
But he remains optimistic now that the UMMS has hired new consultants.
This video is approximately ten minutes in length.