Six Chemical Holders Remain Unidentified In Gaither

February 03, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

GAITHER — Aside from six containers of materials the Environmental Protection Agency has been unable to identify, workers have completed the cleanup of chemicals found in the basement of a Patapsco Road home after the death of their owner.

The chemicals are sealed and stored in a shed at the home until results return from a private laboratory, said John Goheen, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Department-ordered tests of soil and residential wells at the house and five adjacent properties show no contamination, Goheen said, and MDE plans no further testing.

"We're confident the tests show there was absolutely no contamination," Goheen said.

A public meeting for area residents is planned for the second week of February, said Leanne Nurse, a spokeswoman for the EPA. Nurse said will have a list of chemicals found in the house, with a glossary and other background information for residents.

Walter Lee, coordinator of the cleanup for the EPA, said the chemicals were stored appropriately and weresimilar to what one would find in a college laboratory.

The clean-up cost is $275,000 so far, Nurse said, to be paid from federal Superfund money.

That fund is comprised of special taxes paid by industries that produce or use potentially hazardous materials.

The EPAoften tries to collect clean-up expenses from parties it deems responsible, but Nurse said she did not know whether the agency would billLorraine Small, whose late husband had been collecting the chemicalsin their home in preparation for opening a commercial laboratory.

Phillip Small died in December of pancreatic cancer, and his wife called county officials two weeks later to find out how to dispose of the chemicals he left in their home.

Small ran a water- and septic system-testing business out of his home in the 7600 block of PatapscoRoad, but the approximately 1,000 containers of various chemicals would not have been used in that kind of testing, Lee said.

The chemicals included low-level radioactives that were safely sealed, EPA officials said. For disposal, those bottles and jars were encased in concrete, Goheen said.

Goheen said other chemical categories found in the house included acids; cyanides; solvents; metallic compounds; heavy metals; flammables; chemicals that react on contact with air, which were encased in water for disposal; chemicals that react on contact with water, which were encased in oil for disposal; and shock-sensitive chemicals that could explode if dropped or handled roughly, Nurse said. Those shock-sensitive chemicals were encased in padded drumsand removed early in January, she said.

Before the EPA and MDE can remove the remaining six unlabeled containers, they have to know what's inside, Goheen said, in case they need special handling or segregation from other substances.

"They could be fairly innocuous, butwe'd rather err on the side of caution," Goheen said.

The other chemicals were tested at the house before being removed to be sure they matched what the labels said was inside, Goheen said. The chemicalswere hauled away and are being stored by private contractors in the Baltimore area, awaiting incineration at a South Carolina plant, Goheen said.

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