More Turf Valley soil testing sought

April 25, 2007|by a sun reporter

County Executive Ken Ulman hopes to settle a long-simmering dispute by persuading the developer of Turf Valley, the luxury resort and planned community, to perform additional soil tests to ensure that chemicals used on the development's former and current golf courses pose no health risk.

If an agreement is not reached, the county may consider legislation requiring environmental testing, Kevin J. Enright, director of public information, said yesterday.

Louis Mangione, vice president of Mangione Family Enterprises, the owner and developer of Turf Valley, has said consistently that further testing would be performed.

And he reiterated that yesterday. "There will be more testing," Mangione said. "We will do what is right. There will be no danger."

Mangione and county officials have said that additional testing would be conducted as a matter of routine before homes or the commercial and retail components of the development are constructed.

An environmental study commissioned in 2005 by Mangione Family Enterprises concluded that chemicals and pesticides used to maintain the golf courses in Turf Valley do not represent a health hazard.

Marc Norman, a Turf Valley resident and an opponent of plans to expand the development, has faulted the environmental study as "inadequate."

The issue has gained new life because the county has proposed, in effect, to extend public water and sewer to about 70 acres in the development.

Technically, the property would be added to the Metropolitan District, an administrative act that would permit the county to charge the developer a fee to help pay for extending public water and sewer services later.

The move is largely regarded as routine because most of the 800-plus-acre development is served by public water and sewer.

Norman objected to adding the 70 acres, which automatically threw the issue to the County Council.

The objection was designed in large part as a way of confronting the council with the issue of environmental testing in Turf Valley.

The council held a hearing April 16 and met in a work session yesterday to discuss whether to add the 70 acres to the Metropolitan District.

Councilwoman Courtney Watson was the first to indicate that the Ulman administration was attempting to find a solution.

"Does anyone know the administration's progress in getting the property owners to do more testing?" she asked.

James M. Irvin, director of the Department of Public Works, said the issue was "under discussion."

Councilman Gregory Fox raised the prospect of delaying action for a month to see if an agreement is reached.

Advantage Environmental Consultants LLC of Jessup performed an environmental assessment of Turf Valley in 2005. Thirteen soil samples were taken, each 4 inches to 12 inches below the surface. The consultant's analysis found minor concentrations of arsenic, mercury, nitrates and elements of organochlorine pesticides.

Those "do not pose a concern to the current configuration of the site or its proposed redevelopment," the company's report said. "Furthermore, these levels would not be expected to trigger any state or federal requirements, including further investigation or site cleanup."

Turf Valley once had three 18-hole golf courses, but one has been closed.

At Norman's request, Lora Siegmann Werner, senior regional representative of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, reviewed the report by Advantage Environmental Consultants.

She wrote Norman on July 11 that "appropriate collection and analysis methods appear to have been followed."

She also wrote, "Additional sampling would be necessary to determine whether any chemical exposures at levels of public health concern exist at this site" if the property is developed residentially. Werner said she considered the 13 samples "a low number."

She also said it would have been preferable had Advantage Environmental Consultants performed an analysis at sites such as the current and former maintenance and chemical storage facilities, because there would be a higher presumption of possible contamination.

Enright described the settlement efforts as "discussions" rather than negotiations.

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