Jimeno wants to sell contaminated site back to U.S. Old depot has excessive radioactivity

January 20, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A state senator wants the county to sell a former Army depot near Curtis Bay back to the federal government and use the money to build schools.

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, whose North County district includes the site on New Ordnance Road, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's findings last year that the depot is contaminated by excessive levels of radioactive thorium nitrate has exposed the county to unknown legal and financial obligations.

The Democratic lawmaker also told County Executive Robert R. Neall that he is concerned that the county no longer intends to use the property for economic development. He was among the political leaders who opposed Mr. Neall's plan to locate a new detention center there.

"The best interest of county citizens would be served by disposing of this land," Mr. Jimeno urged in a Jan. 12 letter to Mr. Neall.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Neall said yesterday he will not make any decisions until after meeting with federal officials, who have pledged to clean up the contaminated ground.

That meeting has been delayed because the General Services Administration, which sold the property to the county, and the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency, which operates federal depots, could not agree which agency is responsible for the cleanup.

U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a 1st District Republican, said the federal government will pay for the cleanup, but doubts it will take the property back.

"Why would we [the federal government] want it back?" said Mr. Gilchrest, who represents North County and the Eastern Shore. "The federal government is not in the business of buying back property."

The county purchased the 85-acre tract 12 years ago, hoping to attract new industrial development. But most recently Mr. Neall has pushed to build a replacement for the county's 26-year-old Annapolis jail there.

Thorium nitrate was stored at the depot for potential use in a thorium-cycle nuclear reactor.

The NRC found in May that the granular material had seeped into the floor boards of eight of nine warehouses, contaminating the ground below and adjacent to the buildings. Radiation levels were found to be 12 to 64 times those deemed safe by the NRC.

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