Payment for an environmental crime Howard County: $2.85 million helped settle long-ago dumping at Carrs Mill Landfill.

March 10, 1997

HOWARD COUNTY SUFFERED an environmental crime more than two decades ago when someone dumped 900 drums of hazardous waste into the old Carrs Mill Landfill near Woodbine. Unfortunately, those most directly responsible for the dumping can never be brought to justice. A landfill supervisor suspected of permitting the illegal dumping is dead, and three companies involved in the deed have changed ownership.

New ownership, however, does not relieve successor companies of the liability the former companies have. Happily, the new owners -- all major corporations -- have acknowledged they bear responsibility for the mess, agreeing to pay Howard County $2.85 million, covering all but a small portion of the county's costs to clean up the toxic chemicals.

Waste Management of Maryland, Beatrice Co. and Lucent Technologies Inc. do not admit liability committed by former owners of the interests they now hold. But under a fair agreement, each is paying the county $950,000. Howard, in exchange, waives possible legal action.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker has reason to be pleased. Enough staff time had gone toward removing 4,000 tons of contaminated soil from the site and finding a way to pay for the cost, which John O'Hara, chief of the county's waste management bureau, estimates at $2.89 million. Although the county deserved payment, the potential length and uncertainty of a court battle against the three corporate giants was not appealing.

Police never were able to prove that the former landfill supervisor, Francis "Sonny" Bohager, received a bribe from a Baltimore hauling company run by his relatives in Baltimore to allow the firm to dump toxic chemicals illegally. Evidence pointing to Mr. Bohager was not unearthed, literally, until 1993, after his death.

Old landfills had enough trouble with illegal toxins. Too little was known about how to properly line these facilities to protect groundwater.

Dumping hazardous chemicals only aggravates the difficult disposal problems that have emerged recently in health concerns over the Alpha Ridge Landfill and nuisance questions from a proposed waste-transfer station in Elkridge. While officials are dealing with these issues, it is good to know that relief has come for at least one trash disposal headache.

Pub Date: 3/10/97

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