State closes its investigation of hazardous-mulch complaint

January 29, 2003|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

State environmental officials have closed an investigation into a Severna Park waterfront property where one neighbor accused another of spreading toxic mulch.

The Maryland Department of the Environment declared earlier this month that the mulch placed on an Oak Grove Circle property near Cypress Creek contained no hazardous substances above established risk levels.

Department inspectors concluded on their first site visit in August that the mulch was made from natural wood products, but decided to investigate further after the complaining neighbor, Walter Holtz, had the mulch tested at a private lab. That test indicated that the mulch contained creosote, a potentially hazardous material used as a wood preservative. Regulators have set no limits for acceptable levels of creosote, so the private lab was not able to determine whether the mulch was harming the creek.

Holtz said he's not satisfied with the MDE investigation.

"They said they did an investigation, but they didn't," said Holtz, a former Baltimore police officer.

MDE spokesman Rich McIntyre said the department is satisfied that the mulch is not harming aquatic life. Several other neighbors contacted said they had no problems with the mulch.

"Unfortunately, you have some people who never believe government," McIntyre said. "They can push, but at some point, we have to draw the line."

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