For The Pits, See Dump In Glen Burnie

Pollution Is Far Greater Than At Millersville Site

April 15, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

If you thought the county's woes at the Millersville landfill are bad, wait until you hear about the old dump in Glen Burnie.

Pollutants found in the ground water at the Millersville facility pale in comparison to those discovered 12 years ago at the Glen Burnie site.

Residents around Millersville, many of whom rely on well water, are upset that volatile organic chemicals -- toxic substances commonlyused in industrial and household cleaners -- have been found in two test wells at the Burns Crossing Road facility.

County Executive Robert R. Neall is scheduled to respond to residents' concerns at a 10a.m. press conference today.

At the Glen Burnie landfill, not only volatile organic chemicals but cyanide and cancer-causing heavy metals turned up in monitoring wells.

The contamination was discovered in 1980. Over a decade later, in February 1991, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency listed the Glen Burnie facility, located at Ritchie Highway and Dover Road, among the nation's most contaminated sites.

The county closed the 130-acre Glen Burnie dump in 1982. Undera proposed redesign, the 567-acre Millersville landfill will remain open until 2017.

State and county officials say comparing problemsat the two landfills is like comparing apples and oranges.

"The Glen Burnie site has a very complicated history," said Richard Waesche, chief of the county's Bureau of Solid Wastes, which manages the county's two operating landfills, Millersville and Sudley in South County. "It's unanswered question after unanswered question."

The Glen Burnie landfill began as a privately owned, sand-and-gravel operationin 1945. After excavations were completed, it became an uncontrolleddump with open burning. By 1968, two large storage ponds had been filled with hazardous wastes.

As environmental regulations squeezed private owners out of the landfill business, the county purchased "Smuck's Dump" in 1970 and opened its first sanitary landfill.

The EPA became involved when it learned that Diamond Shamrock's Baltimore plant had dumped 100 tons of inorganic solids, including toxic metal substances, there in the late 1970s.

Neall appealed the EPA's decision to place the Glen Burnie site on its Superfund list, saying the county could clean up the property less expensively under an 1990 consent agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

County officials, who had hoped to spend no more than $8 million, have estimated a cleanup under EPA guidelines could cost $25 million or more.

The case went to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Feb. 19. County attorneys argued that the EPA's scoring system was faulty and the Glen Burnie site should never have qualified. A decision is pending.

Waesche said contamination at Glen Burnie is much more widespread than that found at the 18-year-old Millersville facility. The Glen Burnie landfill, with more than 12 test wells tainted at higher levels, lies about three miles from municipal wells that supply drinking water to more than 90,000 people in the county, the EPA has said.

Last week, the Health Department found contaminants in two residential wells near the Millersville site. Althoughthe county has said it will replace those wells, officials cannot say for certain whether the contaminants seeped from the landfill.

"We clearly have a crisis in confidence out there," said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary.

The county's state-issued permit to operate the Millersville Landfill expired in October 1989. The facility has remained open, operating under the conditions of the expired permit, while regulators review the county's application to expand and upgrade, said MDE spokesman John Goheen.

The county is redesigning the landfill, at least in part, to comply with standards adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1986 to protect ground water, said Public Works spokeswoman Anne Seiling.

Staff writer Elise Armacost contributed to this story

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