Landfill may need Superfund cleanup

August 03, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

The Maryland Department of the Environment is studying an old private landfill near Westminster to determine whether to recommend it for the federal Superfund cleanup list.

Carroll's commissioners are thinking about cleaning up the old Kate Wagner landfill before the Environmental Protection Agency might order them to do it. The commissioners have asked the staff to evaluate whether a voluntary cleanup would cost less than one done under federal supervision.

"We have kept in the backs of our minds" the chance that the old landfill could become a Superfund site, said Commissioner Elmer Lippy.

The county government is potentially liable for a share of cleanup costs because it operated the landfill under contract with the owner in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The landfill was in a former quarry on Old Westminster Road now owned by Alfred E. Barnes. Mr. Barnes said he bought the property containing the landfill in 1973 from his uncle, Francis Barnes.

The county closed the landfill in 1973, saying it was full.

Monitoring wells at the site have turned up low levels of contaminants, including solvents and compounds used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners.

In an old landfill, "you'd expect to find a wide variety," said Charles Zeleski, assistant director of environmental health at the county health department.

Mr. Zeleski said the diverse volatile organic compounds in the monitoring wells show that the ground water is contaminated but that there is no evidence indicating the contamination has moved off the landfill site.

Mr. Barnes' plan for a seven-lot subdivision on eight acres of his property at Chapel and Old Westminster roads is on hold while health officials study whether the nearby landfill could affect wells that would serve the planned houses.

State personnel took samples from the four monitoring wells at the landfill in April at EPA's request. Sandra Palmer, a public information officer for the Environment Department, said the state will use the test results to determine whether to recommend the landfill for EPA's CERCLIS -- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Information System.

If a state agency recommends a site, "I can almost assure you those sites would get priority," in EPA's assessment process, said Harold Yates, EPA spokesman.

Whether a CERCLIS site is proposed for the Superfund list depends on how it scores on a ranking for hazards, Mr. Yates said. The ranking system takes into account, for example, how close residential wells are to a source of ground water contamination and whether public water is available.

"My opinion on a site like this is that the county needs to be . . . proactive," said James E. Slater, county environmental services administrator. He hopes to have cost estimates and a recommendation for the commissioners by the end of next week.

Mr. Slater said county officials won't know whether some of the refuse will have to be moved from the old dump to a hazardous-waste landfill until workers start digging. "You just don't know what you're going to find," he said.

Commissioner Lippy talks optimistically of selling "mined" trash from the old landfill to refuse-hungry incinerator operators. The county waste-to-energy study committee's recommendation against building a local incinerator doesn't bar the county from taking its trash to a regional incinerator if it can find a buyer, he said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he didn't know of any market for the mined trash.

Mr. Lippy said he did not know whether anyone from county government had talked to Mr. Barnes about sharing the cost of cleanup.

He confirmed that the commissioners have discussed buying part of the Barnes property containing the old landfill.

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