The residents of two homes next to the Millersville Landfill were drinking bottled water over the weekend after county health officials discovered contamination in their wells.
County crews supplied the water Friday to the houses in the 8300 block of New Cut Road after receiving the results of tests conducted two weeks ago. The results of additional tests are due back this afternoon.
"It's an inconvenience," said Michael Maszczenski, who lives lessthan 1,000 feet from the landfill. "It isn't like going to the faucet. My bottle is on the back porch somewhere. But at least we know thewater is good."
County Executive Robert R. Neall ordered testing for 32 homes along Gambrills and New Cut roads two weeks ago after 200 residents packed a meeting and complained about the landfill, whichopened in 1974.
Tests on eight of the wells came back Friday. Six150-foot wells were clean; the two that were contaminated were 65 feet deep. County officials now plan to test an additional 12 wells in the area. More results are due this week.
At the April 1 meeting, officials said the tests were only a precaution and that no evidence had been found that contaminants were moving away from the landfill. They said no pollutants had been found in nearly two dozen test wellsaround the perimeter.
But later, two test wells at the Burns Crossing Road facility did show contamination -- the same chemical that turned up in the wells at the homes of Maszczenski and neighbor AndrewKreamer.
Tom Andrews, the county health officer, said between 23 and 27 parts per billion of tetrachloroethylene, commonly used in household dry cleaning products, was found in the wells. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends no more than five parts per billion in drinking water.
Andrews said the chemical is "not a known carcinogen," but he said it has been found to cause cancer in laboratory test animals. He said the chemical is not known to cause any ill effects in humans, but he said he is still concerned.
Both he and Neall's press secretary, Louise Hayman, said Saturday that they do not knowwhere the chemicals came from. "It is our information the chemical did not come from the landfill," Andrews said.
He said a 65-foot test well between the two affected homes and the landfill located about1,000 feet away came up clean. Hayman said officials may never know the cause of the contamination.
But she said if the new tests at the homes confirm that the chemical is present, the county will dig new and deeper wells for the homeowners at no cost. "We will give them the benefit of the doubt," Hayman said.
Maszczenski, 67, who testified against the landfill in 1974 because he feared his wells would become contaminated, said other residents living nearby should worry.
"I couldn't taste it, I couldn't smell it. It is something to think about it for these other people around here," Maszczenski said. "After (the county) got their permit, they went their own way. As a result, everything is getting contaminated. It really gives you the willies to think we have to live under these conditions."
"Our worst fears have been realized," complained George Tobak, president of the Aurora Hills Community Association, which represents 125 homeowners living near the landfill. "No doubt about it, something has to be done. It means drastic measures."
Tobak said there will be a protest this morning at the landfill. He and other residents have said they werepromised in 1974 when the landfill opened that it would close withina decade and be converted into a park.
They said they were stunned when they learned last month about the county Department of Public Works' 3-year-old plan to extend the life of the landfill by 25 years.
Hayman said Neall will announce new plans for the Millersville and Sudley landfills on Wednesday. Last week, contamination exceeding drinking water standards was found beneath the Sudley Landfill, located in South County.
Neall said two weeks ago that some high-ranking public works officials could find their jobs in jeopardy. The county executive said he was disturbed by the chronic erosion violations and by a Public Works decision three years ago to begin regrading the landfill without proper approvals.
Neall would not comment on whether he planned to replace Public Works Director Parker Andrews. On Saturday, Hayman would not be specific on departments or jobs. Hayman said people may be given new responsibilities. "We can be very creative," she said.