Patapsco waste dumping stirs Westminster man

January 14, 1994|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

More than a year ago, Monroe G. Haines Sr. announced that he was giving up his six-year fight to save the unnamed stream that flows through Westminster to the West Branch of the Patapsco River.

But when Carroll County waters are threatened, Mr. Haines just can't stay on the sidelines.

The 70-year-old Westminster resident is back in the battle for clean waters.

This time he's trying to prevent the state from allowing the Colonial Pipeline Co. to dump treated waste water from its oil distribution center in Woodbine into the South Branch of Patapsco River.

The state Waste Management Administration has made a tentative decision to renew the pipeline company's discharge permit.

In an attempt to halt the renewal of the permit, Mr. Haines has requested a public hearing on the state's decision. No hearing date has been set.

He also spoke about the issue at the Sykesville Town Council's meeting Monday night to encourage residents to attend the public hearing.

"I'm trying to stir things up and get some people to protest it," Mr. Haines said. "It's our county and state waters that are being affected."

Colonial Pipeline has requested the permit to continue discharging treated water used to clean out tanks and pipes at the company's tank farm at 929 Hood Mill Road in Woodbine, said Linda Harris, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The tank farm is an oil distribution center where oil is stored for Colonial Pipeline's major pipelines along the East Coast, Ms. Harris said.

The permit would also allow discharge of treated ground water and storm water runoff into the South Branch Patapsco River.

Pollutants to be discharged include benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene, Ms. Harris said.

The permit limits the concentrations of certain types of pollutants to protect water quality, but doesn't limit the amount of water that can be discharged, she said.

The standard for discharge of these pollutants into fresh water is 5,000 parts per billion. Under Colonial Pipeline's state permit, the amount of discharged pollutants must be under 100 parts per billion, Ms. Harris said.

"This permit is to protect surface water by making sure operations that handle petroleum products treat any water that comes in contact with the facility," Ms. Harris said.

Treating water may involve skimming the petroleum products or running it through an air filter. The purpose of these treatments is to prevent contamination of the South Branch.

Mr. Haines questions the reliability of these methods.

"When you put gasoline fuel in a bucket, you have an awful time washing it out," Mr. Haines said. "I don't see how it's possible you can treat that water and get enough of the contamination out to dump it in our waters in Maryland."

Colonial Pipeline has discharged materials from the tank farm into the South Branch since the company received its original permit in 1990, Ms. Harris said.

Earlier, the company had used a "spray irrigation" method to dispose of tank waste water. In 1989 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the company to stop the practice because the spray technique posed a contamination threat to ground water, Ms. Harris said.

Mr. Haines says he's puzzled that the waste material was considered a threat to the ground water but not to the river.

"If it's not good enough to go on the ground, it's not good enough to go in the stream and in the [Chesapeake] Bay," he said.

Ms. Harris said the waste water, if discharged into a stream, moves much more quickly than when it is released into the ground. Also, she said the Patapsco River is not a source of drinking water.

In addition, current water treatment techniques are more advanced than those used in 1990, Ms. Harris said.

Despite the state's claims that discharged materials from the tank farm are within acceptable limits, Mr. Haines said the combined effects of waste from other discharge permits throughout the state will hurt the health of Chesapeake Bay.

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