Proposed Jail Site Near But Not On Toxic Dump

February 09, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Radioactive materials were buried at the Curtis Bay Depot until 1986but not on the 85 acres on which County Executive Robert R. Neall has proposed constructing an $80 million jail, a Neall aide told state lawmakers Friday.

Walter Chitwood, Neall's assistant chief administrative officer, was responding to reports last week that radioactivewaste was buried at the Ordnance Road depot.

In asking the county delegation to support the executive's request for $1.25 million to design the 650-bed replacement jail, Chitwood said the federal government cleaned up the site six years ago and that the Nuclear Regulatory Agency lifted all restrictions on its use.

Maryland Department of the Environment records show that between 1970 and 1986, the U.S. General Services Administration buried radioactive material, including remnants of 22,000 corroded, fiberboard drumsand four 55-gallon drums of contaminated dirt, within 500 feet of the proposed jail site.

The state records show that the four drums were excavated in March 1986. Subsequent tests found non-hazardous levels of radioactivity in those drums, and the material was dumped at the county's Millersville landfill a year later.

Geiger counter readings taken at the site Wednesday by the DOE found no significant levels of radioactivity, the records show.

Records also show that theGSA is still licensed to store radioactive material at the depot, along Furnace and Curtis creeks.

The county purchased 85 acres from the GSA in 1981, hoping to spur economic development in the area. However, officials have been unable to sell it in the last decade.

Chitwood said businesses, including Coca-Cola, were deterred because they would have had to build their own $425,000 sewage pumping station.He also said initial tests suggested that the ground water could be contaminated, though subsequent tests found no environmental threat.

Neall announced plans to build a jail to replace the county's 25-year-old Annapolis facility last month. Under the executive's plan, the state would pay half the $80 million cost. The Jennifer Road facility also would be renovated as a work release center at a cost of $13 million once the new jail is completed in 1996.

Yesterday, legislators representing residents around the depot continued to challenge Neall's decision to build a jail at the site. Other lawmakers criticized him for developing the jail proposal behind a shroud of secrecy.

Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, said state financing of thejail could jeopardize support for other county projects. "If we lockourselves into this, school construction, dredging and open space will take a back seat for years to come," he said.

However, DelegateJohn Gary, R-Millersville, said his colleagues were being unfair to Neall and that he does not believe the jail will jeopardize any otherprojects.

"Do you think Bobby Neall wouldn't prefer to be building schools rather than a jail?" Gary said. "He doesn't have a choice."

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