AIDS cases increasing rapidly, threatening to exceed 1993 record of 24

October 23, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

New AIDS cases in Harford County are increasing more rapidly than ever and already are nearing a record for one year, says county health officer Thomas M. Thomas.

"The chart looks as bad or worse than in May," Mr. Thomas told the County Council, which sits as the Board of Health, in a quarterly update on public health concerns Tuesday. He referred to a chart registering new AIDS cases in the county over the last 10 years.

As of Oct. 14, he said, 22 new cases of AIDS have been reported in 1994. That compares with a record 24 cases in all of 1993. At the current rate, Mr. Thomas said, the 1994 total will exceed 1993.

In all, 120 cases of AIDS have been reported in the county since record-keeping began here in 1983. The most dramatic increase has occurred since 1989, Mr. Thomas said, and the number of new cases annually has tripled since 1990.

"What we're seeing here is typical of what is happening elsewhere," Mr. Thomas said, although Harford's number pales in comparison to Baltimore, where more than 5,200 cases have been reported since 1981.

He noted that the AIDS incidence is increasing faster in women and children than in men in Harford and nationwide and that the ratio of male patients to female patients now is 3 to 1 in the county.

Six of the county's 120 cases to date are in children, he said. And 68 of the 120 patients have died.

Also in the quarterly update, health officials reported on the status of ground water testing at two county landfills -- one public and one private.

Woody Williams, supervisor of water quality, told the council that the Health Department will sample ground water from 10 private wells a quarter in the area surrounding the Scarboro public landfill. Mr. Williams said the last test for volatile organic compounds in the neighborhood was done in August and September in an area southwest of the landfill, the direction of ground water flow.

All of the wells are in an area adjacent to an older, closed section.

Of the 10 sites, he said, six were clear of the compounds. There was a decrease at two sites, where the source of contamination was not identified. And there was an increase at two other sites, where the source is believed to be either a leaking underground storage tank or using chemical compounds on the sites, he said.

Most of the private wells being sampled are on residential properties, but some are at commercial sites, he said. The department has recommended a charcoal filtration system for the two wells that showed an increase to remove the compounds.

"The bottom line is we don't see any health threat and no immediate danger based on this sampling," Mr. Williams said. The Health Department only monitors private wells outside the landfill site. The county monitors wells within the perimeter of the landfill through a private contractor.

At the Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc.'s private rubble fill in Abingdon, which was closed in 1992, evidence of contamination continues to show up in monitoring wells, said John Lamb, director of the Bureau of Environmental Health.

The state closed the fill after excessive levels of suspected carcinogens trichloroethylene (TCE) and dichloroethylene were found in monitoring wells there.

Mr. Lamb said TCE levels in two of the wells have ranged from 20 parts per billion to 240 parts per billion over the last year. The acceptable level of TCE in drinking water is 5 parts per billion.

Susan Ford, an attorney representing Spencer Sand & Gravel, attended the meeting. Ms. Ford said TCE is in a pocket 27 feet from ground water and separated by a layer of impervious clay. She said the owners plan a procedure that will involve excavating the site to allow the chemical to pass off as vapor.

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