Electric Transformers Discovered At Millersville Landfill

Soil Now Being Tested For Suspected Toxic Chemical Leak

April 22, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

Workers discovered two electric transformers, including one suspected of leaking PCBs, dumped improperly at the Millersville landfill Saturday.

The Maryland Department of the Environment removed the transformers Monday and excavated some soil that may have been contaminated, said MDE spokesman Michael Sullivan. Samples have been sent to a state laboratory for identification, he said.

Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, are not permitted under statelaw in a sanitary landfill, Sullivan said. The toxic chemical, used in transformers more than a decade ago, has been prohibited since 1979.

Sullivan said the MDE must await test results, not expected forseveral weeks, to determine if the oil found in one of the transformers contained PCBs.

"We're assuming it's PCB," said Jody Vollmar, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Utilities, which took overoperation of the landfill last week.

"We won't know for sure until we get the tests back, but we are assuming it is because it was an old transformer."

Although county policy bars disposal of transformers at the Burns Crossing Road facility, Vollmar said workers discovered two in a pile of scrap metal that they had set aside for recycling.

One of the transformers had flipped over and was leaking an unidentified fluid, she said.

The county Fire Department's hazardousmaterials response team cordoned off the area and uprighted the leaking transformer, she said. MDE's hazardous spills unit and the Attorney General's Environmental Crimes Unit responded Monday, she said.

The Environmental Crimes Unit is investigating the appearance of thetransformers as well as complaints by residents about the operation of the landfill, said Elizabeth Volz, an assistant attorney general who supervises the unit.

Residents have complained that the landfill, which has been operated for the past 18 years by the county Department of Public Works, has chronically violated state environmental laws. Volz said an investigation is routine after the unit receives a complaint.

Whether or not the transformers contained PCBs, Sullivansaid their disposal at the landfill may have violated state law.

"You are not allowed to dispose of a free liquid in a landfill, and these did have some free oil in them," he said.

However, "the operators of the landfill did what they were supposed to do when they found the transformers, which was notify us," Sullivan said.

County officials cannot explain how the transformers arrived at the landfill, Vollmar said.

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