Cleanup Of Basement Chemical Store Ends

Gaither Ground Water Unaffected, Officials Say

March 17, 1991|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

SYKESVILLE — With most of the chemicals once stored in a Gaither home on their way to incineration in South Carolina and assurances from public agencies that no ground water was contaminated, residents are markedly lessworried than they were two months ago.

In sharp contrast to a packed meeting in early January, only eight residents showed up Thursdaynight to hear officials tell them that the cleanup of the Small homeand storage shed had been completed. Both meetings were at the Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Hall and featured the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Maryland Department of the Environment, and countyhealth and environment departments.

At a January meeting conducted just after the cleanup

started,residents expressed anger that the late Phillip Small had stored so many potentially hazardous chemicals in his home on Patapsco Drive inGaither.

But testing of the Small property and five adjacent onesshowed no contamination of ground water, said Karen Roof of the MDE community relations department. She said that the number of calls to her office from residents has dwindled.

Roof said the MDE spoke with people who at first said they thought Small dumped chemicals, but upon further questioning said they had no evidence and never actuallysaw him do it.

Small died of pancreatic cancer in December. Laterthat month, his widow, Lorraine Small, called county officials abouthow she should dispose of a store of chemicals her husband had kept in the basement.

The cleanup was completed Feb. 13, said MDE coordinator Ronie Larmore.

Phillip Small ran a water-testing business out of his home but had been storing the chemicals for a commercial laboratory he had hoped to open.

While no harm to the environment resulted from Small's chemicals, officials admitted there was potentialfor danger, such as if the house had caught fire or if chemicals hadmixed accidentally.

But "it seemed like Small pretty much knew what he was doing, the way he had things labeled," said Walter Lee, an EPA coordinator who supervised the cleanup.

Although Small broke no laws or zoning ordinances, the county should look at building environmental safeguards into the home-occupation ordinance, said James E.Slater, director of the Carroll Department of Natural Resources Protection.

Residents at the meeting could look at a nine-page summaryof types of chemicals removed in more than 225 drums, each containing an average of 10 smaller containers. A handwritten inventory of every container taken from the basement is more than 2 inches thick.

A final, detailed report will be put in the Eldersburg branch libraryin about five months.

Types of chemicals removed include low-level radioactives, acids, cyanides, solvents, metallic compounds, heavy metals, chemicals that react with air or water, explosives and flammables.

Workers also removed the stained floor of a storage shed, although the chemicals had not seeped into the ground.

Lee said the cleanup cost roughly $1,000 a drum, or almost $250,000 total, including characterization of chemicals, analytical work, disposal and salaries of workers involved.

Leanne Nurse, spokeswoman for the EPA, said the money came from the federal Superfund of taxes paid by industries involved in potentially hazardous materials. Usually, the EPA tries to recover the cost from responsible parties.

Nurse said that the EPA hasn't yet determined whether it will seek reimbursement from Lorraine Small or any other parties but that it isn't likely.

After the meeting, residents seemed relieved that it was over.

Jon Barnowski, who lives across the street from the Smalls, said he was satisfied that officials did a thorough cleanup and hopes the final report will put everyone's mind at ease.

"By the response here tonight, if there were concerns, they're eased," he said, adding that the testing of the wells had been a major concern of residents.

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