Missed Opportunity at Keystone CARROLL COUNTY

November 10, 1993

Given all the concerns of Carroll residents whose homes and lives have been threatened by the Keystone Landfill, it is distressing that but three of them showed up a week ago to meet with Maryland environmental officials.

Officials were prepared to collect data on the disease and death around the Pennsylvania landfill. Contamination of ground water affects residents living over the Mason-Dixon Line in northern Carroll as well. But the officials were unable to collect much meaningful data due to the poor attendance.

Quite possibly, residents have grown weary from watching the minimal energy devoted to cleaning up this site since state officials discovered toxic wastes illegally stored there a dozen years ago. Even though Keystone has been classified as one of the nation's most polluted landfills, there has been too much talk and too little remedial action.

Many residents rightfully wonder if the federal government is really interested in removing poisons from the site and protecting the ground water. The unfortunate result of bureaucratic foot-dragging is that the residents have become cynical and disheartened. They are stuck with property they can't sell, and they feel that no one is concerned about their health and safety.

The Maryland officials came to Silver Run to carry out the health study for the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, whose mission is to prevent and reduce illnesses related to toxic waste exposure. By not participating in this assessment, the residents hurt only themselves.

Some of them have anecdotes about cancers, blood ailments and other health problems that have surfaced in recent years, but a rigorous, scientific survey of their well-being has yet to be done. A careful assessment will uncover what, if any, diseases are present and could alleviate many of their fears.

Maryland health officials say they still can conduct a health assessment but will use other methods to collect data. Even if a health assessment uncovers nothing out of the ordinary, it will provide a baseline from which to compare future data.

No other health assessment meetings are scheduled, but a preliminary report is to be issued at the end of this year. The residents near Keystone ought to show greater interest in such a report. It is, after all, their lives that are at stake.

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