Freon-type chemicals appear in landfill wells

June 24, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Minute amounts of Freon-type chemicals have appeared for the first time in wells along the eastern side of the Millersville landfill.

Officials said the amounts found in the test wells -- 10 parts per billion -- are barely detectable and pose no threat to the landfill's neighbors.

The compounds are used as refrigerants and in spray-can propellants. They were first detected in about five test wells on landfill property in November, said James Pittman, who oversees the county's 567-acre landfill. No solvents or volatile organic compounds had shown up before.

There is no standard for the level of Freon-type chemicals in drinking water, but the federal Environmental Protection Agency recognizes 31,500 parts per billion as a level for one such compound at which action must be taken.

Further tests in February confirmed the contamination, Mr. Pittman said.

"This doesn't indicate there is a problem," he said. "Now what we've got to do is make sure we systematically track any kind of changes up or down."

The county added several wells on its property in April, tested them in May and has mapped the area, he said.

The water in that area flows east toward Gambrills Road. County officials are considering drilling test wells on the property of people living near the landfill.

"I am concerned, but I am not panicky about the situation," said Becky Stephens, who owns property next to the landfill. Her well tested fine.

Officials don't know why Freon-type compounds are leaching out of the landfill's pits. The cause could be old refrigerators or household cans that probably lie in the depths of any of five unlined garbage pits.

The pit the county is filling is lined with plastic and has a system to collect leachate and gases, according to a state order.

County officials are trying to modify their Maryland Department of the Environment operating permit to allow the combining of two pits into one.

The department will hold an informational meeting on that issue at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of Arundel Senior High School in Gambrills.

The county's proposal sets the stage for yet another battle with landfill neighbors, because plans call for it to be within 500 feet of some homes on Dicus Mill Road. The Department of the Environment does not regulate buffer size. A clause in the county code prohibits landfills within 1,000 feet of residential, institutional or industrial buildings.

The landfill has had its share of troubles in the past 2 1/2 years, among them being leakage of other contaminants elsewhere on the site and an order from the Department of the Environment that closed three pits.

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