Harford Week

July 25, 2004

New regulations to prevent leaks of MTBE weighed

As new, more sensitive testing began Tuesday in search of the source of a gasoline additive that has contaminated at least 127 Fallston area wells, state environmental officials are considering new regulations to prevent vapor leaks of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, from underground fuel tanks across Maryland.

On Tuesday, employees of an Arizona-based leak-detection company drilled about 50 holes in the pavement around the four underground fuel storage tanks at Upper Crossroads Exxon, which is suspected by state officials of being a source of the ground-water contamination in the area.

On Wednesday, a crew with Praxair Services Inc. began to inject a chemical into the station's fuel system and to monitor the holes around the tanks and pipes for tiny but potentially significant leaks of fuel vapor.

"We'll be able to direct the client right to the leak if there is one," said David Rabb, Praxair's business manager. "We're assuming there is not one, but if there is. ..."

The test is expected to take two to four days.

As results are awaited, Herbert M. Meade, chief of oil control for the Maryland Department of the Environment, said his agency is working on new regulations to address a previously unsuspected problem with many of the 13,000 underground fuel storage tanks in the state.

Although previous tests have not detected leaks at the Exxon at Routes 152 and 165, Meade said he and other officials, based on reports in California and elsewhere, think MTBE vapor might have seeped out of the fuel tanks or pipes into the ground water. "All our regulations are geared to keeping liquid in the tank," Meade said. "We'd not even thought about vapors."

MTBE above the action level has been detected in about 400 private wells statewide, and traces have been found in about 100 public water systems, according to state officials. Meade indicated that he suspects vapor leaks in many of the unsolved contamination cases his agency is investigating. No obvious liquid leaks have been found.

Harford Friends board pledges $125,000

Members of the Harford Friends School board of trustees have pledged $125,000 for the middle school, which is scheduled to open in September next year.

"The pledges made by individual board members are quite generous and ensure that the school's development efforts begin with a solid foundation," said Jonathan Huxtable, head of the school.

The trustees also announced the addition of three new trustees to the board:

Aimee O'Neill, president of O'Neill Enterprises in Forest Hill.

James E. Pickard, retired Harford County teacher and member of the Harford County Public Schools Educator Hall of Fame.

J. Thomas Sadowski, director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development.

Harassment case against ex-sheriff settled

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved Wednesday an $80,000 settlement to be paid to a woman who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former Harford County Sheriff Joseph P. Meadows.

Jeanette Y. Gamble filed a federal lawsuit in January last year against the Harford County Sheriff's Office, Harford County, the state of Maryland and Meadows.

The settlement provides that in addition to the $80,000 paid by the state, Meadows would pay $30,000 and the Sheriff's Office would pay $50,000. The Sheriff's Office would also restore leave taken by Gamble and her husband, who is also an employee of the Sheriff's Office, with a value of $51,278.

Gamble has worked at the Sheriff's Office since 1986 and has been records manager since 2001, according to her lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Gamble alleged that Meadows subjected her to unwanted sexual advances for more than two years.

20% of mustard agent destroyed, Army says

The Aberdeen Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, which is destroying the mustard agent stored at Aberdeen Proving Ground, reported last week that it has neutralized 375 tons of the deadly chemical, about 20 percent of the stockpile.

The facility also reports having shipped 1,139,895 gallons of mustard agent neutralization byproduct, called hydrolysate, to the DuPont Secure Environmental Treatment facility in Deepwater, N.J., for final treatment as wastewater.

The Army said the disposal facility is on track to complete mustard agent neutralization by winter, about a year ahead of the original schedule.

After 60 years of storage, Edgewood reported its first mustard agent leak June 23. A trace amount of vapor was detected inside a building where containers filled with mustard agent are stored. The vapor was contained within the storage structure. Officials have narrowed their search to one group of containers and say it might take considerable time to isolate the leak.

Police seek man in Edgewood rape

The Harford County sheriff's office is looking for a man who raped a woman in Edgewood July 14.

About 2 a.m., a man broke into a house in the 800 block of Windstream Way in Edgewood, police said.

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