County to make way for old depot cleanup

March 02, 1993|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

County officials have decided to demolish nine dilapidated warehouses on property that was once part of an Army munitions depot, so the federal government can proceed with the removal of radioactive soil.

Officials from the Defense Logistics Agency agreed last month to supervise removal of the radioactive soil located in various spots under the warehouses.

But the federal agency insisted that the county first remove the buildings from the site off Ordnance Road in Glen Burnie.

County officials had said they would explore the cost of tearing down the buildings before agreeing to demolish them. But Michael Leahy, the county's land use coordinator, who is supervising the cleanup for County Executive Robert R. Neall, said yesterday that because of health and safety concerns, the county will go ahead and remove the buildings.

"As to the ultimate disposition of cost and responsibility, we'll have to negotiate that with the federal government," Mr. Leahy said.

Mr. Leahy said he will discuss with federal officials the possibility of hiring one contractor to demolish the warehouses and remove the soil, which would bring down the cost for the project.

Most of the warehouses are in very poor condition. One has fallen down completely, and in several others the roofs are falling in. All but three buildings have been declared structurally unsound by county inspectors, which is actually good news, because they can simply be bulldozed down.

State regulations may require that the three structurally sound buildings be dismantled piece by piece, which would drive up demolition costs considerably, Mr. Leahy said.

Adding to the demolition headaches, the exterior building walls are covered with 4-foot by 8-foot asbestos panels.

The asbestos is not in loose fiber form and therefore does not pose a significant health hazard, Mr. Leahy said. But it does pose additional demolition problems, because workers who dismantle the building would have to remove the panels by hand, increasing the health and safety hazards.

The county has not yet estimated a cost for the demolition.

The 85-acre tract had been the site favored by Mr. Neall for a new detention center, and may resume that status once the cleanup is complete.

Once part of the Curtis Bay Depot, the federal government sold the property to the county in 1981.

Radioactive thorium nitrate stored in granular form in the warehouses dissolved and leaked through corroded barrels into the ground, causing the contamination.

Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission declared the site free of contamination in preparation for its sale, the ground was never checked because the NRC had not established guidelines for radiation in soil.

The ground contamination was discovered during an NRC survey of the property in May, performed at the insistence of county officials as they deliberated whether the new detention center should be located there.

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