State denies FAA request for tower in Crownsville

November 04, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

The state has denied the Federal Aviation Administration permission to build a 131-foot radar tower near a private school in Crownsville, saying parents' concerns about potential harmful effects of low-level radiation have gone unanswered.

The FAA proposed building a dome-covered tower at Whitneys Landing Farm between Indian Landing and Evergreen roads, about eight miles southeast of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The radar would detect "wind shear," dangerous shifts in wind direction and velocity that can slam an airplane into the ground.

Michael J. Nelson, a deputy assistant secretary for the state Department of Natural Resources, notified the FAA of the decision in an Oct. 27 letter. The state owns the 312-acre farm.

Federal officials were unable to answer concerns about the health effects the project might have on students at Indian Creek School, Mr. Nelson said in the letter. As a result, the FAA has lost the confidence of parents and neighbors, galvanizing opposition the site, he said.

Parents objected to the new tower after FAA officials said at an Oct. 15 hearing that they were unaware the school was located nearby. When the parents asked about the health risks, the FAA referred to studies in the early 1980s that showed similar radar systems were safe.

But Dee Heinrik of Millersville, whose son is an Indian Creek third-grader, said parents found more recent medical studies conducted in Europe that raised questions.

"I'm pleased with the decision," Mrs. Heinrik said. "They didn't present us with enough evidence that the children would be OK."

Donald Turnbull, program manager for the FAA, was unavailable yesterday to comment. DNR offices were closed for election day.

Meanwhile, Art Slusark, spokesman for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., said FAA officials will survey an 11-acre site on Herald Harbor Road, where the utility plans to build a substation to determine whether it could be used for the radar system.

School officials received a copy of the state decision last week.

"The last thing we want is to be against transportation safety," said Tracy Coleman, physical plant manager at Indian Creek. "We just didn't think it was an appropriate site when they couldn't assure us it would be safe."

Wind-shear tracking systems are to be built in the Baltimore-Washington area to serve BWI, National Airport, Dulles International Airport and Andrews Air Force Base. The FAA has earmarked $50 million to build 47 towers around the country.

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