Residents blame debris on junkyard upstream They say waste clogs bridge, contaminates water in Detour

January 26, 1996|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,SUN STAFF

DETOUR -- Occasional floods have become a way of life in this low-lying village along Double Pipe Creek, but residents here say recent floods -- including the one a week ago -- have been made worse by floating debris from a junkyard upstream from the Route 77 bridge.

"We're campaigning to try and get that junkyard out of here," said Bill Wickham, who lives in a house along Detour's main FTC street. "Every time it floods down here the bridge is dammed up by garbage from the junkyard. Old drums full of fuel and junk cars float downstream to the bridge. My well water tastes like kerosene."

Mr. Wickham and others blame Ray's Auto Parts, a junkyard situated in the flood plain upstream from the town. When the banks of Double Pipe Creek overflow, cars, tires, kerosene drums and other junk are carried downstream to the bridge. The debris clogs the underpass of the bridge, causing water and junk to flood into town.

"We have to have that thing done away with," said Michael Smith, a former Detour resident who owns several apartment buildings in town. "It shouldn't be along the river. A flood plain is no place for a junkyard. Zoning people say it's an environmental problem and the environmental people say it's a zoning problem. No one wants to push the issue."

Ray Flenning, owner of Ray's Auto Parts, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

County officials said they have received no complaints about the junkyard -- health-related or other -- in recent years. The junkyard has been at the site since the 1940s, predating the county's zoning ordinance.

"The junkyard has been there for an extremely long time," said Charles Zeleski, the county's assistant director of environmental health. "From a zoning standpoint, it's apparently in compliance with zoning. As long as the junkyard doesn't create problems, there's no reason for us to go on the property."

Although the junkyard may be legal because it predates the zoning ordinance, Detour residents said that doesn't address environmental problems caused by the junkyard during flooding.

Fearful of well contamination, many residents are drinking bottled water.

"The water in the creek was flowing OK until stuff from the junkyard washed down and blocked the flow," said Roxanne Burrier, owner of the Village Store. "There was an overpowering odor of gasoline. I'm sure it's in the water somewhere."

County health officials earlier this week posted "health alert" fliers in town, warning residents not to drink well water if it was discolored or had an odor.

Disinfection procedures also were outlined on the flier.

"I know Detour got the worst out of anybody in Carroll County," said Larry Leitch, the county's deputy health officer. "We have services that are available to anybody in the county. We do offer to take water samples from wells. Residents have to pay for the sampling but we will help them set it up."

County officials have visited Detour to assess damage to wells and septic systems in the event the commissioners seek federal assistance.

Meanwhile, residents have been busy mopping mud and water, removing debris -- everything from tree branches to tires -- from yards and roads and chlorinating their water.

Residents said several homes sustained flood damage.

"This is a horrible mess," said Mr. Wickham, whose basement flooded. "If this all blows over, we'll go back to the same problems next time it floods. We'll still have to deal with it. I just can't understand it."

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