Environmental agency monitors handling of calcium chloride

May 29, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

Workers loading calcium chloride into tanks in Westminster ++ this week are using more-careful methods since the Maryland Department of the Environment investigated a citizen's complaint, said agency spokesman Louis Gieszl.

While the liquid is not toxic, it could harm plant and aquatic life if it entered a stream in concentrated form, said another department spokesman.

The citizen who complained is Monroe Haines of Geneva Drive in Westminster. He called the agency last week when he saw the workers transferring calcium chloride from rail cars into a tank truck on Railroad Avenue near Distillery Drive in Westminster.

"I was concerned because there was a storm drain right there," he said.

The workers spilled some of the liquid, he said.

For years, Mr. Haines on his own monitored pollution in a stream that runs through town. And he regularly makes rounds in Westminster to check on streams and local industries.

The liquid that the workers were transferring to the tank truck looks like water, but is a solution of calcium chloride, a salt. The county hires Glendenning Bros. of Illinois to spray it on dirt and gravel roads twice a year to control dust, said a Glendenning driver who identified himself only as Jim.

Mr. Gieszl said a state Department of the Environment inspector saw no evidence that the spilled liquid had gotten into the storm drain, but told the workers to use drip pans to catch any liquid that might spill from the hoses and valves that connected the truck to the train cars. Mr. Gieszl said the workers are now using drip pans.

Glendenning Bros. brought three 16,000-gallon railroad car tankers to Westminster early last week and began loading the calcium chloride on to a truck that holds 4,000 gallons, the driver said. That truck has been going out on county roads to spray the solution before coming back to reload and spray again. The driver expected the operation to continue into this week.

Mr. Gieszl said his agency sent an inspector to Westminster on Tuesday to examine the spill, but the inspector saw no evidence that it went into the storm drain.

The inspector also followed the workers to see whether they applied the liquid correctly on the roads, and found that they were, Mr. Gieszl said.

"We did not see any evidence of the material running off and we do not believe the use of this material has created any damage or is any threat to local streams," Mr. Gieszl said.

He said the agency hopes to send an inspector to the area again to continue monitoring the operation.

While there was no harm done, Mr. Gieszl said, Mr. Haines was correct in reporting the incident to the agency. "It is important for citizens like Mr. Haines to contact the Maryland Department of the Environment when they believe there is a problem," he said.

The numbers to call during business hours to report spills and other such problems are 1-800-633-6101, or in emergencies, (410) 974-3551.

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