Court strikes county dump from EPA cleanup list Judge says probe of Glen Burnie landfill was improper

May 15, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A federal appeals court has taken the Glen Burnie landfill off the national Superfund list of hazardous waste sites targeted for cleanup by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled May 1 that the investigative techniques used to place the Dover Road facility on the National Priorities List (NPL) were improper. The case has been sent back to the EPA.

Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall appealed the EPA's decision last year to place the 130-acre Glen Burnie dump on the NPL, saying the county could clean up the site less expensively under a 1990 agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Assistant County Attorney Steve LeGendre said this is one of the first successful attempts to remove a hazardous waste site from the NPL. An EPA spokesman said the agency is reviewing the decision and has not decided whether it will reconsider the landfill for the Superfund list.

Utilities Director Tom Neel announced the decision yesterday as he presented a proposed $21.9 million operating budget for the Bureau of Solid Waste to the County Council. The budget -- for the fiscal year beginning July 1 -- is $4 million higher than this year's. New money to expand curbside recycling to 114,000 households countywide and to clean up Glen Burnie and Millersville landfills accounts for the increase.

Neel said the county must intercept and treat the contaminated ground water at both sites.

Toxic chemicals, including cyanide and cancer-causing heavy metals, were discovered in monitoring wells at Glen Burnie in 1980. It has since been tracked leaving the site and contaminating Furnace Branch, Neel said.

County officials discovered toxic chemicals associated with household and commercial cleaning solvents in two monitoring wells at the Millersville landfill in 1985. During the past month, similar pollutants have been found in 15 nearby residential wells -- four at levels above federal drinking water standards.

"That bothers me. I think it's incumbent on this government to protect the environment," Neel said. "We need to take real quick action."

The county executive has proposed spending $8 million over the next couple of years cleaning up the Glen Burnie landfill, which closed in 1982, and $43.8 million bringing Millersville and South County's Sudley landfill into compliance with environmental laws.

However, Neel said that will not be enough. Since the state ordered the county April 15 to bring Millersville into compliance with its regulations by mid-September, the county has been spending $20,000 a day. He said he has no estimate of the final cost, but expects he will ask the council to approve additional expenses as the year progresses.

Neel said he had just learned yesterday that the Maryland Department of the Environment now has concerns about the ground water at the Sudley landfill and has given the county 30 days to answer them.

The county must tell the state today whether it can open a new environmentally safe trash disposal area, or cell, at Millersville by the mid-September deadline.

Yesterday, Neel said he did not expect to meet the deadline, but hoped the county could open the $10 million cell -- including double plastic liners and a pollutant treatment system -- shortly thereafter. John Zolan, acting chief of the Solid Waste Bureau, said last week the facility would not open until late November.

Neel, who assumed control of the landfill from the Department of Public Works last month, criticized the prior management of the Solid Waste Bureau, comparing it to a vintage 1955 race car JTC attempting to compete in the 1992 Indianapolis 500.

"The organization has not grown up as times have changed," Neel said.

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