State's dioxin limits questioned

January 29, 1991|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Evening Sun Staff

Environmentalists and fishermen today filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government's approval of Maryland's water pollution standard for dioxin, charging that the state's limit on the toxic chemical is so weak that human health and fish are endangered.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Va., contends that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last year approved Maryland's water-quality standard for dioxin, even though the standard permits 100 times more of the toxic chemical into state streams and rivers than EPA recommends is safe.

EPA has found significant discharges of dioxin, a probable human carcinogen, coming from bleach kraft pulp and paper mills, including the Westvaco mill in Luke, which releases its wastewater into the Potomac River in Allegany County. Under pressure from EPA, state environmental officials last year issued a warning against eating too many fish caught downstream of the Westvaco mill, saying they contained traces of dioxin.

Maryland's standard allows only 1.2 parts of dioxin per quadrillion parts of water, which state officials have said is undetectable by existing water-sampling technology.

EPA recommends a dioxin limit of no more than 0.013 parts per quadrillion, or nearly 100 times more stringent. But after initially criticizing the state's limit, EPA officials approved it last year.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.