Superfund listing seen for landfill

Balto. County site threatens local waters and bay, says agency

`It stunk terribly'

Rosedale property has worried officials, neighbors for decades

January 20, 1999|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to add a closed landfill in Baltimore County with a long history of environmental problems to its list of Superfund cleanup sites, federal officials said yesterday.

EPA officials said the 165-acre 68th Street Dump/Industrial Enterprises site in Rosedale has been the source of environmental concerns since at least 1955, when Maryland health officials recommended the landfill be closed. Hazardous substances detected at the site include volatile organic compounds, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, according to the EPA.

An EPA spokeswoman said officials proposed the site for the Superfund list because runoff could harm nearby Chesapeake Bay tributaries such as Herring Run and Moores Run.

"It not only runs off into the surrounding water bodies, but also contributes to the degradation of the Chesapeake Bay," said the spokeswoman, Ruth Podems. She said environmental officials have observed people fishing in waters near the site.

If the site is added to what is formally known as the EPA's National Priorities List, environmental officials could draw from the $1 billion Superfund trust fund to pay for cleanup if the responsible parties are bankrupt or unwilling to pay.

The site, near the Baltimore City-Baltimore County border off U.S. 40, was the location of a landfill that operated from 1953 until 1969, when the Baltimore County health department obtained a court order to end refuse operations there, the EPA said.

The landfill -- operated by Robb Tyler, who in the 1960s became the Baltimore's area's largest trash hauler -- was closed after Rosedale residents repeatedly complained of uncontrolled fires and odors. Tyler disposed of industrial and commercial refuse, waste oils and uncooled ash from the nearby Baltimore City trash incinerator, EPA officials said.

Nancy Leiter, president of the Rosedale Community Association, said she recalls her father and other residents fighting to shut down the landfill.

"It stunk terribly," she said. Pointing to the area's high cancer rate, she said, "people wonder why, but we have been a dumping ground for carcinogenic materials for 40 years."

Although the landfill closed 30 years ago, evidence of illegal dumping has been observed as recently as 1993, the EPA said. In 1979, state inspectors found more than 20 buried drums on land that Tyler had leased from Industrial Enterprises, Inc. according to the EPA.

Podems, the agency spokeswoman, said a preliminary review shows property owners include Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Browning-Ferris Industries as well as Industrial Enterprises.

EPA officials said they try to determine other "responsible parties" for the contamination. A 1997 Maryland Department of the Environment document showed that at least some of the property was owned by Tyler's estate.

That document said cleanup plans were referred to the EPA after talks with representatives of Tyler's estate failed to produce a settlement on the "remediation" of the site. Warren K. Rich, an attorney who represented the estate in those discussions, said state officials balked at the estate's proposal for capping the property, which would have met standards to prevent the migration of ground water. "Maybe we were going to be a little progressive, and weren't going to spend as much money as some people wanted us to spend," he said.

Rich said survey results show no imminent danger to anyone.

Barring unexpected developments, the site will be added to the Superfund list after the March 22 deadline for public comment, Podems said. Comments can be mailed to: Docket Coordinator, United States EPA, CERCLA Docket Office (5201G), 401 M St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20460. Also, comments can be sent by e-mail in ASCII format to superfund.docket@epa.gov.

Pub Date: 1/20/99

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