Just hours after County Executive Robert R. Neall tried to "restore public faith" by stripping authority over the troubled Millersville Landfill from the Public Works Department, health officials announced the discovery of two more contaminated wells near the facility.
County Health Officer Thomas Andrews said his agency has identified twomore residential wells contaminated with the same pollutants found in two ground water monitoring wells at the center of the landfill. That brings the number of contaminated residential wells to four.
The county has offered the four families, all living in the 8300 block of New Cut Road, bottled water, said Louise Hayman, Neall's press secretary. Tetrachloroethene, which was found in the residential wells, is a toxic solvent used in dry cleaning and in degreasing products.
The chemical also was found in a fifth well, but at levels within federal limits.
During an early morning press conference, Neall announced that Tom Neel, director of the Department of Utilities, will take charge of the county's Solid Waste Bureau. The bureau manages the Millersville and Sudley landfills, as well as the countywide recycling program.
"I've put my best trouble-shooter in charge of the problem," the county executive said of Neel, who manages the county's eight sewage treatment plants and the public water system. "I've seen him do some amazing things; he can make a wastewater treatment plant look like a county park."
Residents and other citizens have grown increasingly concerned with management of the Millersville Landfill after learning about county plans to extend its life by 25 years.Although the county began planning the expansion three years ago, residents said they were never notified.
They also are upset the county did not notify the landfill's neighbors after it discovered toxicpollutants in two test wells seven years ago.
Neall said yesterday that the county has a list of 75 residential wells it is testing. The Health Department has received the results for 34 of those wells, all negative except for the five, which are described as "shallow" and therefore susceptible to contamination.
The county is investigating to determine whether the pollutants seeped from the landfill. Monitoring wells between the residents and the contaminated wells at thecenter of the site show no signs of pollutants.
Andrews said he hopes to zero in on the source of the contamination with the help of sophisticated detection equipment from the Maryland Department of the Environment. The county will replace the residential wells if the contaminants cannot be traced to any other source during the next 30 days, Hayman said.
Residents had asked Neall to fire the top managersin the Public Works Department and Solid Waste Bureau. Hayman described past management of the landfill as "a case study in ineptitude."
However, Neall said yesterday that Parker Andrews, who as solid waste chief built the Millersville Landfill in 1974, will continue as public works director. But Neall held out the possibility that managers within the Bureau of Solid Waste, including bureau chief Richard Waesche, could lose their jobs after the utilities director reviews theoperation.
"One of Tom's first tasks will be to review the personnel there," Neall said. "I've given him carte blanche to do whatever he thinks is necessary."
Some residents still want to see heads roll.
"There are people involved that still have their jobs that shouldn't have their jobs," said Daisy Klempa, a resident of Aurora Hills, a subdivision near the landfill.
Neall also attempted to correct concerns over chronic erosion violations at the Millersville facility on Burns Crossing Road. The county's Department of Inspections andPermits will begin weekly inspections of the sediment controls at the 567-acre site, he said.
That move was recommended by environmentalists, who believe inspectors at the Maryland Department of the Environment have been too lenient with the Solid Waste Bureau.
To improve communications between the landfill's neighbors and the county, Neall announced the appointment of Severn resident John Scofield as chairman of a citizen's advisory committee. Other members of the 12-member group will be announced next week, he said. Neall said he wants the committee to convene by May 1.