State cites Md. lawmaker over hazard to stream

Environmental agency targets Impallaria in pollution probe

October 15, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A Maryland lawmaker who owns two acres in the heart of Baltimore County's east-side revitalization zone has been cited by a state environmental inspector after construction waste was dumped on the property near a stream that empties into Middle River.

And a broader investigation is about to be launched. Officials from the Maryland Department of the Environment say they will make a second visit to 1923 Old Eastern Ave. to look into additional complaints by area residents about activities at the commercial tract, which is owned by Del. Richard K. Impallaria, a 7th District Republican.

Richard McIntire, an agency spokesman, said that "within less than two weeks," specialists in air, water and waste pollution will visit Impallaria's property -- where a tenant operates an auto-repair business -- to investigate complaints of paint thinner being dumped into the ground, a spray-paint booth lacking the required permit and other potential problems.

Impallaria declined to comment on the state citation or the impending inspection.

McIntire said agency officials have talked with Impallaria about their planned visit. "He's the one who will allow us back on the property because otherwise, unless certain conditions warrant, we cannot go onto someone's private property without their permission," he said.

McIntire said that five area residents and merchants met with state environmental officials last month to register complaints about Impallaria's property.

Robert Delsignore, a former business partner of Impallaria's, was one of them.

Delsignore said he was present during the summer when a relative of Impallaria's emptied several dump-truckloads of concrete, dirt and broken concrete blocks onto the bank of the stream, the reason for the state environmental citation issued Aug. 21 by MDE inspector Tom Blair.

Some of that debris, according to the state report, has washed into the waterway.

"Rick Impallaria refuses to be held accountable for what's happened at his shop, on his property," said Delsignore.

McIntire said that if Impallaria was not personally responsible for polluting his property, "he should have known and reported it."

Also present at the meeting with state officials was Patti Zajdel, co-proprietor of the Commodore bar and meeting hall not far from Impallaria's property.

"I don't know what went on with all the other stuff like the spray-paint booth, spilled oil or whatever," Zajdel said. "Our concern is the stream.

"And no matter what you try to tell Rick, no matter what he does," she said, "he thinks he can't be wrong because he's in public office. And that ain't right."

The legislator will not be held to the citation's 30-day deadline for cleaning up the debris, McIntire said. Normally, someone cited for similar pollution could face additional penalties if the cleanup was not completed on time.

Instead, the state will "roll in" the pending infraction with the second inspection. McIntire said that move was "not unusual."

Impallaria has owned the 2-acre tract, along with the building on it, since 1999 when he purchased it for $165,000. Several weeks later, the property was put up for sale for $500,000. In 2000, when county officials were purchasing older buildings and sites for the revitalization of Essex and Middle River, the asking price was raised to $800,000.

Today, Impallaria's property is listed for sale on the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems for $1.3 million.

The property is near three marinas where the county planned to build a waterfront destination with a promenade, retail shops, restaurants and parking. But the owners of Cutter, Riley's and Buedel's marinas have not indicated they are willing to work together on such a plan. Other issues, such as the long distance to the bay from the headwaters and the fluctuating depth of the river, have clouded the project's prospects.

At the building on Old Eastern Avenue, Impallaria operated a body-and-fender shop that no longer exists. That space is occupied by the auto-repair shop. Other portions of the building also are leased.

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