Poison in 5 private wells, and 70 ponder what to do

October 28, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

Now that the herbicide atrazine has been found at unsafe levels in five private wells along Old Waugh Chapel Road in Odenton, residents want to know what federal and state officials are going to do about it.

About 70 people, including civic leaders and political candidates, attended a public meeting last night organized by state Del. Marsha G. Perry at the Arundel Middle School to hear experts from the Maryland Department of the Environment, Fort Meade, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Anne Arundel County explain how residents will be affected.

Investigators are trying to learn whether the poison leached out of Fort Meade's Active Sanitary Landfill, which is on 130 acres west of Odenton.

The Army and the Environment Department are supplying bottled water to residents whose wells have been found to be contaminated.

Federal guidelines say drinking water should contain less than 3 parts per billion of atrazine, which scientists believe may cause cancer in human beings.

Harold Lehtma said atrazine was found in his well at levels of 8 parts per billion.

"What has that been doing to me?" he asked. "I've been drinking that water for almost 24 years."

"You wouldn't expect to see any health problems from drinking that," said Peter Ashley, a state toxicologist.

Federal guidelines assume an exposure over a lifetime of 70 years, he said, and the EPA has said an exposure of 200 parts per billion may be acceptable for several years.

Robert DeMarco, administrator of state agency's Environmental Response and Restoration Program, said his department is trying to learn how many private wells there are in the affected area.

Many local residents use public water supplies.

He said, "We do not think there's any potential impact whatsoever" on public water supplies, but public sources would be tested just to be safe.

Jody Vollmar, a customer relations specialist with the Anne Arundel County Department of Public Works, said the county gets its water from deeper wells than those found to have been contaminated in Odenton.

Officials will do additional testing at the Army landfill to see if it contains atrazine.

They are also investigating whether the chemical may have been used by other nearby landowners.

In the meantime, officials said residents whose water is affected may drink bottled water, install activated-charcoal filters, or hook up to public water supplies.

However, some residents complained that they could not afford the cost of hooking up to public water.

Ms. Vollmar said a connection to the county's water system costs $4,650 plus plumbing costs.

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