Pharmaceutical plant could reopen this year

April 21, 1995|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer

A pharmaceutical plant in Brooklyn Park that closed two years ago after a grand jury indicted its owner for environmental violations could resume production of penicillin this year.

Consolidated Pharmaceuticals Group Inc., the new owner of the plant in the 6100 block of Robinwood Road, cleared another regulatory hurdle Monday when Anne Arundel County officials gave it permission to reconnect to the public sewers.

The county severed the original connection in 1991 after workers spilled 1,000 gallons of methylene chloride and isopropyl alcohol into a janitor's sink leading to the sewer.

That spill and the unlawful storage of hazardous wastes on the site led to the grand jury indictment of the owner, Kanasco Ltd., on Sept. 29, 1992. If tried and convicted on the two felony counts, the company could have faced up to $200,000 in fines.

However, the state dropped the charges Nov. 30 after Kanasco officials sold the business to Consolidated, said Howard Nicholson, an assistant attorney general assigned to the Maryland Environmental Crimes Unit.

"We received assurances from [Kanasco officials] that they would cease operations and that the company would be sold to a company from Pennsylvania or Delaware," Mr. Nicholson said yesterday. "We also have assurances from their counsel that none of Kanasco's principals are involved."

Kanasco has paid $25,000 in penalties to settle a civil complaint filed by the Maryland Department of the Environment in 1992 for water and air pollution violations, department spokesman Quentin Banks said.

Residents from surrounding neighborhoods, including Arundel Gardens and Sunnyfield Estates, long complained about violations, particularly foul odors.

Voluminous state enforcement files chronicle an 18-year history of unauthorized dumping into storm drains and public sewers. A 1988 hazardous liquid spill sent 10 families from the Cedar Avenue community to the hospital.

Before connecting to the sewer system, Consolidated must install equipment to allow the county to monitor plant discharges for hazardous chemicals 24 hours a day, said county spokeswoman Lisa Ritter.

Ms. Ritter said the company still may decide not to connect to the sewer system. It has the option of installing a sewage holding tank, but she said the waste still would have to be tested before it could be processed at a county treatment plant or applied to agricultural fields.

"Given the history of the site, we believe we have erred on the side of conservatism," Ms. Ritter said.

Consolidated President Linden M. Fellows confirmed yesterday that the company, which he said was formed last year, had acquired the plant. He declined to comment further.

Consolidated officials also still must obtain approvals from the state Department of the Environment and the federal Food and Drug Administration. Mr. Banks said Consolidated is seeking permission to build an air-emissions scrubber and an operating permit from the state.

State Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, toured the plant April 13 with Consolidated officials, lawmakers and residents.

"They're moving ahead," Mr. Jimeno said. "I was surprised when I walked in to see 30 to 40 employees, all the supplies. They are ready to go."

Mr. Jimeno said he was told the factory could be producing antibiotics within four to six months and marketing them overseas.

He said he was troubled to learn that the property, if not the business, still is owned by Kanasco officials.

"I was hoping we would not have to deal with Kanasco again, Consolidated or otherwise," said Mr. Jimeno. "But I guess there is too much investment there."

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