Developer Ordered To Investigate Possible Contamination

137-acre Abingdon Site For 700 Homes Includes Two Closed Landfills

December 29, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,SUN STAFF

A developer who wants to build over 700 homes on Abingdon property that includes two closed landfills has been ordered by the county Health Department to determine whether the site is polluted.

The testsinclude monitoring wells and soil samples and are expected to determine what materials were buried at the landfills and whether they are hazardous, said Richard Gordon, sanitation supervisor at the county Health Department's air pollution and solid waste division.

The developer, Hidden Stream Development Corp., will be required to draft a plan for the tests, which would then be approved by the county, Gordon said. A timetable for the studies has not been set.

The landfills, off Old Philadelphia Road, were used for illegal dumping in the 1970s and 1980s, but it is not known what materials were dumped at the site, Gordon said.

The Health Department believes only construction debris was dumped, but administrators want to make certain no hazardous materials are buried there.

"As far as we know, itwasn't like somebody was burying drums of chemicals there," Gordon said. "But we want to make sure there isn't anything there that will harm anyone."

Plans for the proposed development, named Hidden Stream, show that 719 single-family houses, town houses and condominiums would be built on 137 acres on both sides of Old Philadelphia Road, near Abingdon Road.

The project, submitted to county planners in June 1988, has not received preliminary approval.

The Hidden Stream subdivision would be served with public water and sewer services, according to the plans.

Hidden Stream Development Corp. is directed by Morris Wolf of Baltimore County, according to plans filed with the county Department of Planning and Zoning. Wolf most recently developed Bynum Overlook, a 67-acre subdivision in Abingdon.

Frank Hertsch, a Bel Air attorney representing Wolf, said the developer will work with the county to get approval for the Hidden Stream plan.

The county found out about one of the dumps, known as the Moore landfill, in 1986, after receiving several complaints from citizens, Gordon said.

The county filed citations to have the site cleaned up. But for unknown reasons, the county did not pursue the charges, said Gordon, who did not work for the department at the time.

The other dump, called the Johnson landfill, operated as a rubble fill in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gordon said. County records show that mostly treestumps and dirt were deposited there.

The Hidden Stream tract is across the street from a third landfill, which appears on the federalSuperfund list of hazardous waste sites that pose a threat to human health, according to maps at the planning office. The site is betweenBush Road and the Bush Declaration Natural Resources Management Area.

County planning and Health Department administrators say they donot believe the Superfund site would affect residents of Hidden Stream, based on studies by the developer.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is conducting studies to determine the extent of contamination at the 29-acre former landfill and it should be cleaned up.

A 1984 EPA inspection found toxic chemicals in ground water beneath the dump. The agency found vinyl chloride, a cancer-causing compound; trans-1, 2-dichloroethane, a volatile organic compound; and trichloroethane, a cleaning solvent that can irritate skin and harm the respiratory system.

The county ordered Hidden Stream's developers to conduct environmental studies of the landfill. The March 1991 studyby Geo-Technology Associates Inc. of Bel Air concluded that there isno "significant" on-site contaminants.

Ground water samples met most state standards for drinking water, although four test wells contained slightly higher than acceptable amounts of heavy metals, such as barium, chromium and lead, the study shows.

The Geo-Technology study also found that the ground water contains minor levels of several volatile organic compounds, including toluene and xylene, but the readings were well below the acceptable maximum limits. Volatile organic compounds are combinations of chemicals that can be hazardous.

Geo-Technology noted that ground water in the Abingdon area flows eastward, away from the Hidden Stream site. The Superfund site is east of Hidden Stream.

Robert J. Donald Jr., of the county Department ofPublic Works, said in an Aug. 12 letter regarding the proposed subdivision that the Superfund site should not cause problems for the development because the subdivision will be on the public water system.

But Donald recommended that the county attach several conditions onits approval, including a requirement that the developer notify potential buyers of the proximity to the Superfund site. Planners could issue the conditions with their preliminary approval.

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