County can't buy New Cut homes, executive says

May 13, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

The county is willing to help pay for public water hookup for residents whose wells have been contaminated by the county's New Cut Road Landfill, but it can't afford to buy homes from residents whose property values might have declined, County Executive Charles I. Ecker said last night.

"I don't feel the county should be obligated to pay for something when the county has not damaged it," Mr. Ecker told a group of about 40 Ellicott City residents who met with county officials and landfill contamination experts at Worthington Elementary School.

A number of residents at the meeting said new real estate disclosure laws will make it impossible to sell their homes, which either have contaminated wells or methane gas leaking into the basement or are close to monitoring wells with cancer-causing solvents in them.

"Price-wise, the property is destroyed, unless you can find me a buyer," said Ed Valda, who lives along New Cut Road and has a contaminated well.

The county has provided treatment systems or bottled water for residents whose wells have shown contamination in periodic tests, but several residents told Mr. Ecker and other county officials that won't reassure prospective buyers.

The meeting was called to give residents a chance to question experts on a $300,000 study of contamination from the landfill and how to clean it up.

The study was prepared by consultants from GeoTrans, a Virginia-based firm that has also completed studies of the closed Carrs Mill Landfill in Woodbine and the still-operating Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville.

A landfill activist from Marriottsville, L. Scott Muller, chided officials for downplaying residents' property concerns.

"There's a perception of damage, Mr. Ecker, here and at Alpha Ridge, too," Mr. Muller said. "People can't sell their homes."

But Mr. Ecker said the county already has to pay millions of dollars to clean up polluted ground water and provide expensive landfill caps to prevent more water from entering the landfills.

"If we go and buy up properties that we have not damaged, it's going to be an unrealistic figure," Mr. Ecker said.

Residents also raised concerns about methane, an explosive gas generated by rotting garbage, collecting under Worthington Elementary School, which is next to the facility.

Officials said there is a gas monitor at the school that would sound an alarm before the gas reached unsafe levels, and plans for correcting the landfill's environmental problems call for replacement of the existing system that collects and burns the gas. "What we have to do is provide an extraction system so that there's no migration of methane across the property lines," said county Public Works Director James M. Irvin.

Although methane is not considered harmful to breathe in the quantities emitted from a landfill, there is concern that it could explode if allowed to build up.

One resident asked about sump pumps.

"If it gets into the sump pump, it's just like having a natural gas leak in your basement," Mr. Irvin said.

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