Letters To The Editor


October 08, 2003

High levels of perchlorate pose dangers

Lane Harvey Brown reported that perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel used by the military, has been found at very high levels near the city of Aberdeen's drinking-water wells ("More testing planned on perchlorate contamination at APG," Sept. 28). Levels in groundwater have already reached 3,500 parts per billion (ppb), and levels in soil are as high as 15,000 ppb. This is profoundly troubling news.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says perchlorate should not be at levels above 4 to 18 ppb in drinking water, and Massachusetts recently recommended reducing it to 1.5 ppb. Even military scientists say that 70 ppb is as high as perchlorate levels should go.

The levels at Aberdeen Proving Ground are higher than those at most other hot spots in the country by several orders of magnitude.

Perchlorate interferes with the uptake of iodine to the thyroid and can cause neurological damage to fetuses and young children.

Nationwide, a battle rages as the military resists orders to clean up perchlorate, which could cost billions. Here, we are in much better shape. Treatment to protect pregnant women and kids would cost about $1 million.

Why is the Army stonewalling the cleanup at Aberdeen?

Rena I. Steinzor


The writer is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and the lawyer for the Aberdeen Proving Ground Superfund Citizens Coalition.

Arrogant attitude may hurt governor

In the article "Ehrlich says restrictions ahead for land preservation programs" (Oct. 2), Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is quoted as saying he and his Board of Public Works are "the new law in town."

Politics breeds its share of insolent "public servants." But this comment is right up with President Bush's "you're either with us or against us" statement in self-righteous arrogance.

Mr. Ehrlich was elected to govern Maryland. But in the long run, acting and talking like a tough, public-be-damned sheriff may be his undoing.

Barbara Orbock


Raising tolls soaks overtaxed citizens

The state's plan to increase tolls on several roads and bridges shows just how far our government will go to get more money out of the overtaxed citizens of Maryland ("Higher tolls get initial OK," Sept. 30).

The state wants to put the money into improvements for the highway system that are needed but can be accomplished by less taxing and more simple means.

If the state would use all tolls collected and all fuel taxes collected for highways only, we would have some of the best roads in the country.

It's time for our elected officials to wake up and use our tax money in ways that make sense.

Jay DuBree


New voting machines a poor investment

For the state to purchase millions of dollars worth of Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines that lack the ability to prove that the vote has been tabulated accurately strikes me as extremely bad judgment.

Nothing is more important in a democracy than free, fair and accurate elections. One has to look no further than the last presidential election to know that proof of the vote is critical.

With the narrow difference in total registration between the two major political parties, it is imperative that all votes cast be verifiable.

June Clendening

Ocean Pines

Pickering deserves spot on appeals court

As a practicing attorney, I wish to add my name to the many who strongly support the president's nomination of Judge Charles W. Pickering Sr. to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ("Senate panel sends judge's renomination back to full chamber," Oct. 3).

Judge Pickering is an example of what is best about the legal profession and our judicial system. His courtroom experience includes 30 years of trial practice, including time as a city prosecuting attorney and county prosecuting attorney. As U.S. district judge for the Southern District of Mississippi, Judge Pickering has 10 additional years of distinguished courtroom service.

He will be a jurist who will follow the law as it is written by our political representatives. He will defend the rights of all citizens with equal vigor.

Gerard W. Wittstadt Jr.


`Clarity' won't help those who lose pay

In "Updating overtime" (Opinion * Commentary, Sept. 30), Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao argues that Sen. Tom Harkin's amendment to block her agency's new overtime rules would hurt workers. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Harkin amendment blocks the agency from eliminating overtime rights for anyone and expressly allows changes that would help low-wage workers.

Ms. Chao claims the old rules are obsolete because they refer to "straw bosses" and "legmen." This is nonsense. Getting rid of outdated titles doesn't require rewriting the rules themselves, but that's what the Department of Labor is doing. And in the process, large swaths of office workers and others could lose overtime protection.

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