MTBE again found in Carroll

Gasoline additive discovered in tests of wells in northeast, northwest parts of county

June 22, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH | LAURA MCCANDLISH,SUN REPORTER

The gasoline additive MTBE has been detected in drinking water in two more areas in Carroll County, just as the county health department has drafted a plan to describe procedures for dealing with the contaminant.

The well water at four out of five homes near the intersection of Hoffmanville and Grave Run roads in the Manchester area contained MTBE above the state action level of 20 parts per billion, said Brian Flynn, water quality supervisor for the county health department. At that level and beyond, the state advises homeowners to filter their water or use bottled water.

Methyl tertiary butyl ether is a suspected carcinogen that adds an odor and taste to water in concentrations of 20 to 40 parts per billion, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

No source of the MTBE has been identified, Flynn said. It also has been detected in other areas of Carroll.

One of the homes in the Manchester area had MTBE levels of 210 parts per billion - 10 times the state action level - Flynn said.

The water at 20 nearby homes is being tested, and notices of possible contamination are being sent to 80 other property owners in the area, Flynn said.

A public meeting will be held for residents next month, Flynn said.

In the northwest area, one well at a Middleburg home had an MTBE level of 160 parts per billion, although five other homes in the area tested clear or were below the state action level, Flynn said.

The county health department has sent a draft of its plan to the state environment department to help coordinate efforts with its oil control division.

"They're more addressing the cleanup, and we're more interested in the quality of the drinking water," Edwin F. Singer, the environmental health director for Carroll, said at the county's Environmental Advisory Council meeting in Westminster yesterday.

Wells will continue to be tested in Gamber, Flynn said, where MTBE has been detected but no contaminating source has been identified. A perforated heating oil tank was recently removed from one Gamber property, Flynn said.

While heating oil doesn't contain the gasoline additive, it can be contaminated while transported in a tank truck also used to carry gasoline.

Sher Horosko, a member of the county's Environmental Advisory Council, complained about delays in obtaining test results and information about sources of the contamination from the state. The council should lobby for more help from the state, she said.

"We have to do better," Horosko said. "The response of the state labs is not meeting the public health needs of this community. Who's going to hold their feet to the fire?"

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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