Toxic sites interfere with bypass plans Hampstead route faces changes

August 08, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Throughout Maryland, there are 40 toxic waste sites designated by federal or state agencies for priority cleanup.

Two of the state-listed sites lie along the route of the proposed 5.8-mile Hampstead bypass, which has been under consideration for more than 20 years as congestion along Route 30 worsened.

The contaminated sites continue to interfere with planning, years after the problems were discovered.

State Highway Administration engineers have had to realign the southern part of the bypass to avoid one site, the land owned by Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc. immediately south of Hampstead. In the mid-1980s, ground water there was found to be contaminated with industrial solvents.

And engineers have had to eliminate the northern mile of the bypass to avoid the second toxic waste site, behind the North Carroll Plaza shopping center, where ground water contamination was discovered in 1987.

The northern contamination site lies directly in the path of the bypass as it was originally planned. To avoid it, engineers decided to cut the planned Hampstead bypass short and end it at Brodbeck Road, instead of extending it a mile farther to link with the proposed Manchester bypass at Cape Horn Road.

The problem is liability. If the State Highway Administration buys contaminated land for highway rights of way, it becomes responsible for the cost of cleaning up the contamination.

"It would be a bad purchase," said State Highway Administration spokeswoman Valerie Burnette.

In 1991, SHA officials said the Black & Decker contamination problem might threaten the whole bypass project.

But Black & Decker has assumed responsibility for cleanup of its site. The company hired hydrologists to design a cleanup program and is seeking permission from the state Water Resources Administration to begin the work.

The SHA decided that by relocating the south end of the proposed bypass route slightly -- by less than 100 feet, according to one SHA official -- it could avoid the Black & Decker contamination area. That shift also would enable the road to avoid a nearby stand of trees, Ms. Burnette said.

Because land for the bypass has not been purchased, she said, the cost of the realignment is negligible.

However, the North Carroll Plaza site continues to plague the northern end of the project.

The U.S. Geological Survey discovered ground water contamination there in 1987, while studying storm water control measures in the Greenmount area. Test wells revealed ground water was contaminated with tetrachloroethene, said Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the state Department of the Environment.

In 1990, he said, the state set aside $600,000 to study the extent of the contamination and the best ways to clean up the area. That study is not complete, Mr. Sullivan said Thursday, and it is unclear how much the cleanup will cost.

Any cleanup will be delayed while the Department of the Environment tries to determine who is responsible for the contamination, Mr. Sullivan said.

"We try to get the identified responsible party to pay for whatever work needs to be done," he said.

Tetrachloroethene, or PCE, is used in many dry-cleaning products, Mr. Sullivan said, and there is a dry-cleaning business in the shopping center.

"That's not necessarily the only source" of the contamination, Mr. Sullivan said.

"The current owners might not have anything to do with it," he said, and other businesses may have contributed to the problem.

Mr. Sullivan said one major concern had been potential contamination of residential wells in the area.

Residential wells within a half-mile of the site were tested, he said. The only wells found to be contaminated were two in North Carroll Plaza. They were fitted with filters.

Although Brodbeck Road and part of Route 30 would have to be modified to allow the proposed bypass to be shortened, Ms. Burnette said, the change should actually reduce construction costs, which are estimated at $11 million, not including the purchase of land.

The proposed bypass has been held up for years because of a lack of state funding.

DTC "I'll take any bypass that would alleviate the traffic problem in Hampstead," said Mayor Clint Becker.

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