Herbicide found in water of home near Fort Meade

October 16, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

A common herbicide has turned up in the tap water of a home near Fort Meade's active landfill, prompting state environmental officials to order bottled water for the household and new tests of area wells.

A Fort Meade spokesman said the base is reimbursing the residents for bottled water although the military's records, which date to 1979, do not show use of the chemical on the base.

Army base officials agreed last month to test private wells near the base's two landfills for contamination.

Pesticides, metals and chemicals found in fuels were detected around both landfills and several contaminants have been found at levels exceeding federal limits in monitoring wells on the base's eastern edge, near the landfills.

The Active Sanitary Landfill is west of Odenton and the now-closed Clean Fill Dump is west of Woodwardville.

One private well near the active landfill contained atrazine, a broadleaf weed killer, said Maryland Department of the Environment spokeswoman Sandra Palmer.

The amount detected -- three parts per billion -- is the level at which federal officials take action.

The state Environment Department is doing additional sampling, but results are not expected back from state laboratories for several weeks, Ms. Palmer said.

"As a precaution, MDE asked the Army to provide this family with bottled water," Ms. Palmer said.

The base agreed, but "we do not believe that Fort Meade is the source of the atrazine," said Don McClow, a spokesman for the military post.

Anne Arundel County health officials have not been officially informed of the matter, but are scheduled to meet tomorrow with state environmental and Fort Meade representatives, said Bob Weber, the health department's special assistant for environmental matters.

Mr. McClow said Fort Meade officials will meet this week with representatives of the state Environment Department and the Army Environmental Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground to discuss results of the well tests. Unacceptable levels of other contaminants were not found in the wells, he said.

Del. Marsha Perry of Crofton, a Democrat whose district includes Odenton, has invited state environmental officials to provide the community with an update on testing and cleanup plans for the landfills. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at Arundel Middle School.

"I want full and complete testing of every possible contaminant they can think of," she said. "I want to know exactly how fast that ground water is traveling and where it's coming from."

While the military has agreed to pay for cleanup of any contamination "attributable to Fort Meade operations," identifying the culprit may be difficult because there are other industrial and waste operations in the area.

The Active Sanitary Landfill opened in 1958. The Clean Fill Dump was used from 1972 to 1985.

Nobody knows how long the landfills have been leaking. But a 1992 Army report identified them as potential sources of pollution.

The military has not explained why it took no action until last month.

Fort Meade has had a history of problems involving the handling and disposal of hazardous materials.

This summer, the state Environment Department fined the base $10,000 for 82 counts of improper hazardous waste management dating to 1989.

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