Time Bomb On Ordnance RoadOver a period of 30 years, the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 20, 1994

Time Bomb On Ordnance Road

Over a period of 30 years, the citizens of the North County communities have lived with, studied and fought off various types of pollution -- air, water and land. We were hopeful that our County Council had been educated to our plight. During the General Development Plan, leaders of some environmental organizations and myself testified that all landfills should be exempt from any type of construction. . . .

Now comes the quest for an Anne Arundel County Jail, and the Ordnance Depot site has again been proposed by some members of our council for a jail site. Why any intelligent, environmentally educated person would suggest putting any type of construction on this property is beyond my comprehension.

By definition, ordnance means munitions, i.e. guns, bombs, ammunition, explosives. Citizens living around this area who have worked at the Ordnance Depot have testified to the burial of hand grenades (with bent pins attached) and other explosives at this site.

It's bad enough that we have explosives buried at this site, but recently we discovered through the research of Dave Schramek, one of our environmental experts, that in the late 1950s, the federal government shipped 26,000 tons of radioactive (thorium nitrate) materials stored in 2,200 leaky fiber drums by rail in 40 to 50 boxcars to this site. In 1962, the fiber drums were replaced by metal drums which are currently stored at the Ordnance Depot next to our waterways, which incidently flow into Chesapeake Bay. Other toxins are also stored at the depot. Since the federal government has little or no records of what was stored there prior to 1972, we have no knowledge of what is buried there today.

During the Nuclear Regulatory Commission public meeting last May 24, the NRC was surprised to hear that the railroad cars used to haul radioactive material were hosed down, allowing radioactive runoff to contaminate the ground, and also of the hand grenades buried there. If community activists had not spent the time to research the Ordnance Depot site, we would still not know the extent of the hazards there.

We are led to believe that the Ordnance Depot is being cleaned up and upon completion, there will be no radioactive materials left.

Let's get the record straight: Only part of the Ordnance Depot is owned by Anne Arundel County. The county-owned portion includes nine buildings, eight of which were found to be contaminated. These buildings and the contaminated ground immediately surrounding them is the only contamination currently planned for removal under the current contract. The 26,000 tons of radioactive materials previously mentioned are on the adjacent site and are not scheduled for removal. The federal government stated that finding another site for storage of radioactive material will be extremely difficult. In addition, the county has not addressed the problem of explosives on its property.

Within the postal zone of the Ordnance Depot, the record shows that the cancer rate for white males is six times the national average. Do we have so little land in Anne Arundel County that we must start building on contaminated property that is surrounded by thousands of people? It would be bad enough to have an explosion at Ordnance Depot and have the heavy metals released to our water and air. But it would be disastrous if it were radioactive as it would take a billion years for it to decompose. The consequences would be immeasurable. Will the County Council be willing to take this risk? The people are not.

A hearing will be held on a resolution naming the Ordnance Depot site for construction of a jail at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

Lola L. Hand

Glen Burnie

In Defense Of Scholarships

Why are our state senators and delegates being given such a hard time about their distribution of scholarship funds? I, for one, applaud them for providing one of very few sources of assistance for middle-income family members who are seeking a college education.

Low-income families, on the other hand, qualify for just about any kind of assistance you can think of. Virtually every scholarship in college handbooks requires the applicant to show proof of financial need, which eliminates the middle class from becoming recipients. We also are not eligible for federal Pell grants, which pay for everything from tuition to paper and pencils. Not to mention that low-income families can qualify for medical assistance, food stamps, free child care, the Earned Income Tax credit, the new Health Care Credit, etc. Meanwhile, the average middle income family is working 40 to 60 hours a week, paying the taxes that provide all of these programs.

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