Factory Stench Offends

Residents Fuming Over Kanasco Odor

May 26, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

At first, Robert Hilker was embarrassed when a chemical odor from a neighboring pharmaceutical factory forced the guests at his pool party indoors.

Thursday night, he was just angry.

"Anyone who owns a home shouldn't be forced into their houses like bomb shelters," said Hilker, a resident of Arundel Gardens, a smallBrooklyn Park neighborhood. "Why should I pay taxes on it if I can'tlive in my backyard?"

Firefighters responded to complaints of chemical odors wafting through Hilker's neighborhood three times during the eight weeks.

Each time they traced the odors -- which residents said irritated their eyes and throat and caused minor headaches -- to Kanasco Inc., in the 6100 block of Robinwood Road.

Friday, Hilker and other members of the Arundel Gardens Improvement Association sought explanations from elected officials, state regulators and the plant's managers.

Residents have lived in fear of the pharmaceutical manufacturer since it opened nearly 30 years ago, said James Folger, a Cresswell Road resident.

"Medicine is just another name for a chemical," said Folger, who lives two blocks from the 11-acre plant. "We want to have our minds relieved about what we live with day to day."

James Pittman, deputy director of the state Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Administration, said industrial waste water spilled from an outdoor storage tank April 7.

The waste water, which thecounty will not allow into its sewer system, contained traces of triethylamine, a chemical used in the manufacture of penicillin.

Fireofficials cordoned off the neighborhood for several hours until the waste water was returned to a storage tank and the concrete pad in which the tanks sits had been cleaned.

The diluted chemical has a sweet, disagreeable odor and can irritate the eyes and throat. But it does not pose a long-term health threat, a state Department of the Environment spokesman said.

"Whatever kind of chemical it was, it burned my nose," said Evelyn Lee, president of the Arundel Gardens Improvement Association.

Firefighters responded twice in May to reportsof chemical odors but could not identify the source, said Chief Roger C. Simonds, head of the Fire Department's emergency medical services.

The plant, which produces 50 tons to 75 tons of penicillin annually, has a history of dumping violations dating back to 1974.

In 1988, the county denied Kanasco most sewer service after the plant leaked methylene chloride, an industrial solvent, into the sewer system.

The toxic fumes sent about 10 Ferndale families to the hospital and forced the evacuation of 17 other homes.

Plant manager Mario Ruggeri attempted to reassure Arundel Gardens residents Thursday.

"The majority of the products we use at Kanasco are products people use every day in their homes," Ruggeri said.

Methylene chloride is found in varnish and hair spray, acetone in finger nail polish, and isopropyl alcohol in rubbing alcohol, Ruggeri said.

Ruggeri, a Howard County resident who has worked at the plant for 11 months, said he believes many of the odors detected by residents come from the bleachused to scrub floors.

Ruggeri promised the residents to dilute the bleach solution, to neutralize immediately any harmful chemicals inthe waste water and install a hot line residents can call to report odors.

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