2 Test Wells At Alpha Ridge Found To Be Contaminated

April 26, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Contaminants were found in two test wells along the northern border of Alpha Ridge landfill, Public Works Department officials told the County Council last week.

"We believe the problem is localized," orconfined to the landfill property, said John J. O'Hara, chief of theBureau of Environmental Services.

O'Hara said there is no evidence of contamination in nearby private wells or the Little Patuxent River. The Little Patuxent is fed by ground water flowing north from the landfill.

O'Hara said the contaminated wells contained seven compounds identified with solvents such as degreasers and paint. He said the contaminated wells are being tested monthly and the Little Patuxent River is being tested quarterly.

Test wells to the east and south have not produced contaminants and are being tested less frequently, O'Hara said. All test wells areon the landfill property, he said.

Frank Skinner, county directorof environmental health, said the county has been testing privately owned wells outside the landfill since 1978. "We have yet to find a problem," he said. He told the council the Health Department will intensify its checking of privately owned wells near the contaminated portion of the landfill.

Council chairman Paul R. Farragut told O'Hara and Skinner he wants the state Department of Natural Resources to perform a stream test on the Little Patuxent. "We have a very serious obligation to nearby residents," Farragut said.

O'Hara made his disclosure at a council work session last week on the $74.2 million capital budget the administration proposes for fiscal 1993. Included in the budget is a project to study expansion of the Alpha Ridge landfill onto adjacent property.

Money for the landfill study was authorized last year but never spent. The project came up again this year because the scope of the study had changed.

When authorized last year, the project was designed to study alternatives to Alpha Ridge, including expansion onto adjacent property. The change this year would limit the study to expansion of Alpha Ridge, unless that option provesuntenable.

Residents were incensed by the change. They said they had been promised the landfill would not be expanded. Expansion, theysaid, poses a health hazard in that the landfill could leak contaminants into ground water that supplies their wells.

The council postponed action on the study until after the Planning Board conducts a public hearing on the change May 7.

"We were aware of the pollutants but not aware of the extent," said L. Scott Muller, a Sand Hill Road resident who has been one of the leading opponents of Alpha Ridge expansion.

"We were aware of only one compound, and that was eight times more than the new EPA standard," Muller said. "I think they soft-pedaled the whole presentation. They have spot-tested only a small number of residential wells and use indicator tests that don't look for the kind of compounds discovered in the landfill wells. I am very concerned about the water testing."

Public Works Department officials said they believe the situation at Alpha Ridge is well under control, and they continue to favor expansion onto adjacent property as the preferred solution to the county's need for additional landfill space. They said they would provide the council written arguments as towhy they believe expansion is the best alternative.

Prior to hearing about the landfill problem, the council tentatively approved by unanimous vote the other capital project categories it considered Thursday morning: community renewal, fire, general county, libraries, recreation and parks, and road resurfacing.

What appeared to disturb council members most was not fiscal 1993 proposals, but the administration's five-year capital program.

Council members C. Vernon Gray,D-3rd, and Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, complained that in past years, they have approved a program of future projects only to have those projects disappear without warning.

"It's very disheartening to hearthat projects we thought we'd voted have been removed," Pendergrass said.

Administration officials apologized, saying the lack of official notification of projects pulled from the five-year program was an oversight that will not happen again.

Gray was not appeased. He called for a separate straw vote on the future capital program recommendations and then voted against them.

"My vote does not mean I don't support the projects" included in the five-year program, Gray said, "but that I object to not being notified when they are taken out."

Gray said removal without notification can lead to a scheme whereby a council member could conspire with the executive to get a project deleted from the capital program even though the project had been approved by the other council members.

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