Surprise at the Keystone Landfill Carroll County: Marylanders told Superfund dump is not source of their well pollution.

April 21, 1997

HAVING SUSPECTED for years that their water wells were polluted by the closed Keystone Landfill, a federal Superfund cleanup site, Silver Run residents had expected the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to confirm that source.

This month, after a lot of federal foot-dragging, EPA told those Carroll County citizens that it didn't know the source of their well contamination -- and probably won't do anything further to find out. There is still suspected landfill pollution of ground water on the Pennsylvania side, where the 40-acre toxic waste dump is located, EPA says.

Further, the owners of Keystone are threatening to sue the leader of the Carroll resident activists for defamation if she continues to blame the landfill for polluted water supplies.

A main problem has been the dilatory attitude of EPA toward action at Keystone, which has been on the Superfund priority list for a decade. That inaction reinforced a natural tendency on the part of well owners to suspect the landfill as the single source of their water problems, in the absence of federal test results.

The agency has postponed investigations of surrounding water sources and put off the urgent concerns of people living around the site, on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

Last year, EPA found elevated levels of toxic heavy metals, pesticides and chemicals in several Carroll wells, which led homeowners to believe the landfill was the contamination source.

But the Carroll County Health Department had inspected individual well complaints in prior years and found no pattern of pollution.

The contaminants could occur from the bedrock, from corroded plumbing fixtures and from agricultural chemicals, officials said.

The new EPA study found that a west-east tributary of Piney Creek along the state line is a natural boundary or barrier for ground water contamination from Keystone.

That draft report will likely be challenged by exasperated Carroll residents through the EPA process. But the prospect, in any event, is for more delay in conclusive testing, more uncertainty, more worry on the part of affected residents. Meanwhile, those citizens will continue to use bottled water, install filtration purifiers -- or just keep crossing their fingers.

Pub Date: 4/21/97

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