Harford residents' letter asks senators for MTBE cleanup aid

August 18, 2004|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Frustrated residents of a Harford County neighborhood urged Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski yesterday to pressure the Maryland Department of the Environment for aggressive action in cleaning up a gasoline additive leak that has contaminated 169 wells in their neighborhood.

The Upper Crossroads residents' letter asked the senators to have the Environmental Protection Agency investigate the leak and to push the MDE to ensure that the matter is addressed urgently and effectively.

The letter, signed by five members of community associations in the Upper Crossroads area, also asks that residents be advised as quickly as possible of all actions.

"From our perspective, it has taken the MDE a long time to begin doing anything to deal with the contamination," said Valerie Twanmoh, a Bel Air lawyer and co-chairwoman of the Greater Fallston Association's MTBE task force.

Residents became alarmed in June when they first learned that traces of the potentially cancer-causing chemical methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, was found in their well water.

The residents complain that MDE failed to promptly inform the public of past leaks of MTBE in the neighborhood surrounding the intersection of Routes 165 and 152.

They also contended that MDE violated state code by failing to provide notice to the public of the contamination. In their letter, they wrote that this "demonstrates total disregard for the health, safety and welfare of all the residents of the Upper Crossroads area [of Fallston]. We consider this action, or inaction, to be grossly negligent."

Richard J. McIntire, an MDE spokesman, said the department had not received a copy of the letter and could not comment on it. He said the department was aware of the letter because it monitors the Fallston association's Web site and because staff members living in the neighborhood received copies in their mailboxes.

A spokesman for Sarbanes said the senator has not seen the letter. Mikulski's office did not return calls inquiring about the letter.

The MDE has said that the Exxon station at the intersection of Routes 152 and 165 is at least partly responsible for the MTBE leak.

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