Two families living in western Howard County have filed a lawsuit against a nearby farming operation, claiming that over the past 20 years the pesticides and herbicides used on the farm have contaminated their soil and drinking water.
Carl and Annette Dayhoff and William and Jane Applegate, both of the 1900 block of Route 94 in Woodbine, are each asking for $175,000 in damages from the Mullinix family farming business, also in the 1900 block of Route 94.
The lawsuit, filed in Howard County Circuit Court on Jan. 10, says that numerous chemical spills from the Mullinix farm have caused the pesticides and herbicides to travel down a drainage ditch toward the Dayhoff and Applegate residences.
The resulting contamination has forced the families to use bottled water and water filtration systems and has significantly decreased the resale value of their homes, according to the lawsuit.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Roland H. Mullinix and Son Inc., Gene W. Mullinix and Mullinix Feed LotInc. The defendants own and operate a farming, livestock feeding, herbicide and pesticide storage and distribution business at 1990 Route94.
The Mullinixes could not be reached for comment.
The Dayhoffs and the Applegates, who both live within 500 feet of the Mullinixoperation, say that their ground water has been contaminated by unsafe levels of harmful chemicals, including atrazine and metolachlor, considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to be possible humancarcinogens, and alachlor, considered by the EPA as a probable one.
The lawsuit alleges that the Mullinix farming operation has created a "toxic waste dump" through the illegal dumping and burning of herbicide containers in the foundation of an old silo within 500 feet ofthe plaintiffs' property.
The silo, 10 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep, contains 20 years worth of chemical residues and is filled to within five feet of the land surface, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit makes no mention of health problems caused by the contamination.
The county Health Department was informed about possible contamination in the area in 1988 by a Mullinix family member, said Frank Skinner, director of county environmental health services.
Testing of wells indicated that three wells were contaminated, and in January 1989 health officials told the three affected families, including the Dayhoffs and the Applegates, to use bottled water for drinking and cooking, said Bert Nixon, director of county technological services.
In 1990, a member of the Mullinix family arranged to have water treatment systems installed in the affected residences, Skinner said. The Health Department continues to monitor the water quality.
"It's unclear to us whether we were seeing something that was due to years offarming activity or whether it was an acute incident that might havehelped migration onto the site," Nixon said.