Opponents of the Safeway supermarket planned for Deale issued a report yesterday that suggests the proposed plaza's parking lot could send toxic runoff into the nearby Rockhold Creek watershed, threatening aquatic life.
But the study is not based on data specific to the Safeway site, and its author - who lives near Deale and volunteered her time to assist Safeway opponents - says the big concern is that no government agency has done a comprehensive environmental impact study.
"The point is, nobody really knows for sure," Jacqueline D. Savitz, executive director of the nationwide environmental advocacy group Coast Alliance. "We care about this creek and the Chesapeake Bay. We think it makes sense to try to answer these questions beforehand rather than after the fact. ... You can't go back and undevelop it."
In her analysis, which she said she based on other scientific reports, Savitz warns that toxic metals such as lead, copper and zinc as well as petroleum-related chemicals are "likely" to flow into the Rockhold Creek watershed, largely the result of increased automobile presence.
Savitz said copper levels could be high enough to threaten striped bass larvae, soft-shell clams, oysters and the food supply of the blue crab.
County planning officials seem poised to approve the Safeway despite vocal opposition from South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development Inc., which released Savitz's study. The project meets requirements in areas ranging from zoning to storm-water management, said planning director Denis D. Canavan.
But County Executive Janet S. Owens announced Friday that a Montgomery County engineering firm would review the Safeway proposal before the county makes a formal decision. Owens also said the grocery chain had agreed to scale back the size of the strip mall by 12 percent, from 88,000 square feet to 77,000.