Protection from toxic landfill needed, neighbors tell Ecker

December 21, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

Neighbors of the toxic dump site at Carrs Mill Landfill in Woodbine told Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker that ** more needs to be done to protect them from chemicals that have polluted a local stream and underground aquifers.

Tests of residential wells need to be conducted more often, more accurately, and air near neighboring homes should be monitored, the residents said at a Thursday night meeting designed to bring neighbors up to date on cleanup efforts at the landfill, which is about two miles south of the Carroll-Howard line.

Cleanup workers have unearthed at least 462 55-gallon drums on the site. At least $700,000 has been spent on the cleanup.

Consultants said about half the drums were damaged and empty, and about one-tenth were full. Test results from several of the drums show they contain trichloroethelyne, or TCE, which has been listed as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because it has caused cancer in laboratory animals.

Many residents said they feared that more harm than good is coming from the cleanup effort, which began about two months ago.

"I can go up to my bridge and stand and smell the drums," said Susan M. Miller, who lives across Carrs Mill Road from the cleanup site.

Consultants from GeoTrans, the environmental firm that is supervising the cleanup, said they did not believe there was any health risk outside the cleanup site from evaporated solvents. But Mr. Ecker asked Howard County Public Works Department officials and county environmental consultants to use gas monitoring equipment at the site near Ms. Miller's home.

Ms. Miller said she had hired an environmental consultant, who had judged tests of residential wells performed by the Howard County Health Department to be suspect.

She said the company, E2Si of Baltimore, questioned the method used to collect samples and health authorities' dismissal of solvents found in a neighbor's well as "laboratory contaminants."

The Howard County Health Department has maintained that there have been no confirmed instances of contamination in residential water.

While the laboratory that analyzed samples for the health department sent county officials a letter saying that the chemicals acetone and methylene chloride had been contaminating specimen containers, it said nothing about trichloroethane, or TCA, which was found in minute traces in the neighbor's well.

The principal contaminant found in ground-water monitoring wells has been TCE. The EPA drinking water standard for TCE is 5 parts per billion, and the grease-cutting agent has been found in ground water below the landfill at more than 3,000 parts per billion.

Knowing that, Frank Pesce, who lives in the Foxport subdivision on Bushey Park Road, asked: "Isn't it prudent that you give [the closest residents] bottled water?"

Mr. Ecker responded that the county does not believe there is a danger in drinking the water.

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