Former sheriff comments
From: Dominick J. Mele
Former Harford County sheriff
The incident that occurred at the Harford County Detention Center concerning the death of an inmate was very unfortunate. Also unfortunate was the grand jury's response to the incident, the recommendation they found necessary to make, and the overall criticism of the way the incident was investigated by personnel from the detention center ["Sheriff's detectives to probe all future inmates' deaths," The Harford County Sun, March 1].
The comments made by the grand jury and the state's attorney are well placed. Personnel assigned to the detention center are trained in corrections. Though there may be one or two who have been cross-trained, none has the training or the experience necessary to have undertaken such a serious investigation.
In 1987, I created the position of chief of security for the detention center. The person chosen for that critical post was the former division commander of the Criminal Investigation Division. He was elevated to the rank of captain, transferred to the detention center and given complete dominion over the center's security needs, including criminal investigations.
His concerns for security encompassed both the internal and external environment of the detention center, including personal safety of officers and inmates. His main objective was obviously prevention by instituting certain proactive measures where and whenever required.
Even if this latest incident could not have been prevented, you should have a person with tools, experience and knowledge to conduct a thorough investigation on their own and able to enlist assistance from the sheriff's criminal investigation unit, crime lab technicians, etc.
This is but one of the benefits derived from having the detention center and sheriff's office operations under one central command, provided the system is properly administered.
Notwithstanding the reasons this person was removed from such an important post or that the position of chief of security may have been eliminated, someone with the same qualifications and like measure of experience should be permanently assigned to the detention center. This consideration becomes so apparent in view of the recommendations made by the foreman of the grand jury.
While the very nature of the institution makes incidents like this appear ominous, every precaution should be taken to diminish the risk of such incidents or, in the least, an investigation after the fact should be promptly undertaken by qualified personnel.
Appalled by rubble fill
From: Florian Svitak
I want to thank Alan Craver and The Harford County Sun for their reports on the Spencer Sand & Gravel rubble fill.
Without honorable journalists and a responsible press, the citizens would be denied vital information that is not only important at the present, but will have significant and, quite possibly, far-reaching ramifications well into the future.
I hope not too many readers were distracted by the "jibber" of various officials in the article "Rubble fill tests reveal toxic chemicals' presence," The Harford County Sun, April 19. These statements appear to be made to confuse and trivialize certain real facts and legitimate concerns.
It is confirmed that trichloroethylene and dichloroethene are present in the rubble fill. A legitimate question is how they came to be there in the first place. This was supposed to be a clean, toxic-free rubble fill. What happened and what is happening?
Under state and federal law, the maximum allowable level of trichloroethylene is five parts per billion -- that's five! In September 1991, tests showed 88 ppb. In March 1992, tests showed 99 ppb.
In the case of dichloroethene, the maximum allowable level is 7 ppb. In September 1991, tests showed 79 ppb; the March 1992 tests show 107 ppb. Once again these figures are way above allowable levels and appear to be growing.
A Spencer consultant stated that this stuff is floating on clay and not in the bedrock and aquifer.
But it is only a matter of time until the toxics find a way around the clay and spill into the aquifer.
As for the various assurances that people have nothing to worry about because they have public water, I hope that people have not degenerated to the point of being concerned only for the water that is piped to them. I hope that many still hold certain principles and beliefs that call for all of us to be concerned and committed to the good health and betterment of all that surrounds us -- namely the environment.
There are still citizens living in the Abingdon area who depend upon water drawn from wells.
This entire matter is extremely troubling. As we debate this issue, rubble continues to be dumped at Spencer's. There is no realistic way anyone could search each truck that rolls in there, meaning that additional toxics may well be dumped there today, tomorrow and so on.