Baltimore County Digest

BALTIMORE COUNTY DIGEST

February 14, 2007

Trial over tainted wells scheduled for May 2008

A civil trial to determine whether Exxon-Mobil Corp. should have to pay damages to Jacksonville residents whose wells were found to be tainted after a 26,700-gallon fuel leak last year is tentatively set for May 2008.

Contractors continue to test wells and add monitoring wells in response to the leak from an underground storage tank at an Exxon station in the heart of the northeastern Baltimore County community.

The fuel and a gasoline additive tainted the water supply of some nearby residents and businesses -- all of whom rely on wells-- and caused widespread fears about possible contamination.

In addition to at least two civil lawsuits on behalf of residents, the state's Department of the Environment has filed a lawsuit against Exxon and Storto Enterprises, which operated the now-closed service station. That case could be tried starting in April 2008.

State officials said the gasoline leak, at an Exxon station at the Four Corners intersection where Jarrettsville Pike meets Paper Mill Road to the west and Sweet Air Road to the east, was not reported by the station operators or Exxon from January to February last year.

More than 120 wells in the community were tested for contamination, and at least six showed significant levels of the gasoline additive MTBE.

About 23,600 gallons of fuel have been recovered, and 15 million gallons of ground water have been pumped out and treated in the area, said Herb Meade, an MDE official. The agency has asked Exxon to install 33 more monitoring wells over the next several months, in addition to the 227 monitoring wells there now, Meade said.

A meeting between Exxon-Mobil and the Greater Jacksonville Association was set for last night but was canceled because of the weather. The community group has asked for the results from the testing of private wells last month, said Glen A. Thomas, former president of the association.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. Norris Byrnes, who is also presiding over the state's lawsuit, set a schedule yesterday for the case filed on behalf of 80 Jacksonville families.

Those families, represented by Stephen L. Snyder and Robert J. Weltchek, are seeking punitive and compensatory damages for the cost of connecting to new water sources, the loss in property values, emotional distress and possible long-term injury from exposure to the gasoline, according to the court filings.

Exxon denies that it knew about the gasoline leak before it was reported to state environmental authorities in February last year, according the court papers. The company also denies negligence and says the plaintiffs do not have injuries that can be pursued in the case.

The lawyers for Exxon and Storto had asked that lawsuit be tried in federal court, but the case was sent back to Circuit Court.

Byrnes set aside two months for the trial, which is scheduled to begin May 27, 2008, though the judge said he hopes it will begin earlier.

The lawsuit filed by Peter G. Angelos' firm on behalf of other Jacksonville families against Exxon has been transferred to U.S. District Court in New York.

Laura Barnhardt

Traffic

Accidents in Towson, Monkton kill 2

Two men have been killed in separate car accidents, one in Towson and the other in Monkton, authorities said yesterday.

About 1:30 a.m. yesterday, Ryan William Smith, 21, of the 400 block of Fox Catcher Road was driving a 2003 Chevrolet Impala on the Baltimore Beltway near Dulaney Valley Road when he lost control of the car, state police said.

The car skidded about 160 feet before striking a guardrail and overturning. Smith was thrown from the car and died at the scene, officials said.

About 10:20 a.m. Monday, Christopher Landeck, 29, of the 100 block of Hollowbrook Road was driving a 1991 Buick LeSabre north on Markoe Road near J M Pearce Road when he crossed the center line, county police said. Landeck's car struck a 2006 Toyota Rav4 being driven by John Dutko, 37, of the 4200 block of Norrisville Road, police said.

Landeck died at the scene. Dutko was taken by ambulance to Greater Baltimore Medical Center, police said.

Nick Shields

School board

Budget meeting reset for tonight

A meeting of the Baltimore County Board of Education, at which for board members are to vote on Superintendent Joe A. Hairston's proposed $1.16 billion operating budget for next year, has been rescheduled for tonight.

The school board's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 must be forwarded to County Executive James T. Smith Jr. by March 1.

The meeting was originally scheduled last night but was canceled because of the weather.

Events or news items for the Baltimore County Digest may be submitted to baltco.news@baltsun.com. Information should be sent at least 10 days in advance of the event.

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