Residents want complete cleanup of contaminants at Carr's Mill

April 06, 1995|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Citizens who live near the Carr's Mill Landfill made it clear to Howard County officials last night that they wanted contaminated dirt at an illegal toxic dump site removed, even if it is costly.

Since the first drums were discovered in September 1993, cleanup crews have removed nearly 900 drums of industrial waste dumped illegally at the closed landfill in Woodbine. What remains is contaminated ground water below the site, a contaminated stream, an open pit tainted with cancer-causing chemicals, and the contaminated dirt that came from that pit.

Last night, County Executive Charles I. Ecker, public works officials and ground water contamination consultants met with residents at Bushy Park Elementary School to present four options for a short-term cleanup.

The county's preference is to put the dirt back into the pit, run pipes through it to collect toxic vapor, filter the vapor and release it, at a cost of $92,000.

But a show of hands by about 30 residents who attended the meeting indicated that that option alone would not satisfy the group.

"I would like all of that contaminated soil to be removed from the site . . . and not pushed back into that hole," said Susan M. Miller, who lives across Carr's Mill Road from the dumping ground.

That option -- having the dirt packed up and shipped to a hazardous waste landfill-- is estimated to cost about $1.2 million, based on the assumption that the county will remove 12,000 cubic yards of earth.

Mr. Ecker said that hearing the views of the residents was only "one piece of the puzzle," and that other factors, such as how effective other options might be in removing contaminants, will have to be considered before a decision is reached.

"In other words, what we're doing here tonight may have no significance whatsoever," said Joy Bloom, who also lives across Carr's Mill Road from the site.

Another option presented, but not favored by the county or residents, is to put the stockpiled dirt back into the dump site and cover it with clay and clean dirt, at a cost of $27,000.

The most expensive option -- which residents said they favored -- would be to remove the dirt for $1.2 million and then proceed with vapor extraction at the site, which will bring the total cost of cleanup even higher.

Ms. Miller said she was planning to circulate a petition to convince officials that area residents want that option, or at least to have the tainted soil removed.

The four options are intended to keep more water from percolating through the soil and further contaminating ground water near the dump site, which is a few hundred yards north of where Carr's Mill and Bushy Park roads intersect.

After a short-term cleanup has been in place for about a year, the county will begin long-term cleanup expected to cost between $5.3 and $6.6 million. That will include a waterproof covering for the entire landfill, and systems for pumping and treating contaminated ground water and collecting methane gas, a normal landfill byproduct.

The county will use the same techniques to contain chemicals migrating from the county's closed New Cut Road Landfill in Ellicott City and its only operating landfill, Alpha Ridge in Marriottsville.

Since the late 1980s, samples from Cattail Creek and from wells drilled on the Carr's Mill Landfill have shown increasing levels of solvents such as trichloroethene, known as TCE. The grease-cutting chemical was found in large quantities in some of the drums on the site.

Other drums contained highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs. Paints and unknown benign substances turned up in still other drums. About 400 drums were empty or crushed.

Some residents at the meeting became angry when they learned last night that the county knew about contamination years ago but did not inform residents about it until the drums were discovered.

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