Some day before too long there will be a new Pomfret post office, and local residents can stop driving over to the White Plains post office to get their mail.

That's the word from several layers of officialdom, including the U.S. Congress and, perhaps more to the point, the Charles County Health Department.

The Pomfret post office closed early this summer because its lease ran out. Plans to build a new facility foundered because the land chosen wasn't suitable for a septic field.

It has taken since late 1998 to get approval for an alternative solution: a holding tank that will be pumped out periodically. Health officials normally don't approve such tanks because their owners may fail to pump them out periodically.

But now they've decided that the U.S. Postal Service can be trusted to carry out its pumping obligations. Charles County commissioners, the county Health Department and the Maryland Department of the Environment all have agreed that a holding tank is acceptable, said Gary Davis, the county's chief of environmental health.

"As far as I can tell, everything is in a 'go' mode for the Pomfret post office," Davis said Tuesday. He said a permit for the tank could be issued by the end of the week. After that, construction can proceed.

Groundbreaking for the new post office at Marshall Corner Road and Lark Haven Drive would be expected sometime this fall, said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

"I am pleased this permanent facility will now get underway," Hoyer said in a statement released by his office. "Many Pomfret residents raised a concern that their facility would never reopen."

Construction should be completed sometime next year, Hoyer said.

Charles, Navy Seek More Water

Charles County's commissioners want federal help with water supply shortages in western Charles County.

Their hope is that the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head can use military construction dollars to draw more water from the deep Patuxent aquifer.

That would take pressure off the Patapsco aquifer, which lies closer to the surface and is tapped by most nonmilitary water users in western Charles County.

The warfare center is by far the largest user of the more shallow source, accounting for nearly half of the roughly two million gallons pumped from it daily in the Bryans Road area.

Board of Commissioners President Murray D. Levy (D-At Large) forwarded the commissioners' suggestions in a Sept. 3 letter to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.

Levy said the Patapsco is being pumped at its maximum sustainable rate. The heavy use is causing water levels to drop in older wells, "with the result that many homeowners have had to drill new wells at great expense," Levy wrote.

He suggested the Navy base could upgrade its water systems, and could perhaps drill new wells into the Patuxent aquifer. "That would further reduce pressure on Southern Maryland's groundwater supplies," Levy said.

Initial reaction from the Navy was positive.

"Commissioner Levy does have a great idea here," said base spokeswoman Chris Adams. "His request is a natural follow-on to some of the water conservation efforts we have underway here."

Adams said the base recently spent $1 million so it could use river water at times, and is eager to recycle more and modernize its water distribution system.

Differing Democracies

Those who attended a round table last week in which Southern Maryland elected and community officials discussed "Making Democracy Work" with a delegation of Russian leaders saw the sharp contrast between a mature democratic system and one just emerging from a very different tradition.

The Russians--elected leaders including two members of the Russian Duma and several executive officials from national or local governments--stopped at Charles County Community College on Aug. 30 for the program during their visit to Southern Maryland. The visit was organized by Gary V. Hodge, former executive director of the Tri-County Council for Southern Maryland, and coordinated through Rep. Steny H. Hoyer's office.

One member of the Russian parliament suggested that, despite the helpful advice from Southern Maryland leaders, the American model may not work for Russia. His nation, he said, needs to have a "final argument" over just what system it wants.

He didn't seem to be talking about parlor debate. As he made his point, he noted that such a final argument would likely involve bloodshed, just as it had in the United States, an apparent reference to the Civil War.