May 13, 2007

THE ISSUE: -- Is the Howard County government right in trying to get the owner of Turf Valley to perform more chemical tests before additional development occurs at the luxury resort and planned community?

County is correct to demand testing

The county should absolutely demand that adequate environmental testing be done prior to further development at Turf Valley.

I applaud the initiative shown by Howard County health officer Dr. Peter Beilenson in working with the developer, and I thank the dedicated and concerned residents who worked tirelessly to bring this issue to the attention of government officials.

I am disappointed in the County Council's decision to extend water and sewer to the newly incorporated parcels until the testing is completed. The council members were advised by the Office of Law that they could not make the extension of the water and sewer into a broader issue. However, this is the same office that earlier said that the county had no authority to demand environmental testing at all. This opinion was later countermanded by the state attorney general's office. I certainly hope the fact that the attorney who advised the County Council used to work for the developer's attorney doesn't cloud her judgment.

Kim MacLean Ellicott City

Don't derail approved project

It is possible that the recent pressure on the Mangione Family Enterprises to conduct additional environmental testing in the Turf Valley development is simply another means of slowing development that has essentially been approved under existing county and state regulations.

The Mangiones have consistently stated that additional testing would be done as planned development proceeds, in accordance with local, state and federal requirements. This commitment was recently made more explicit and reiterated by Mangione Family Enterprises.

Certainly environmental issues are important, but they should not be used as a means of thwarting appropriately planned and approved development.

E. Niel Carey Ellicott City

Comprehensive testing is needed

Thank you for the opportunity to address the issue of environmental testing at Turf Valley.

Why test at Turf Valley? Because golf courses typically apply pesticides at rates seven times greater than agriculture. Turf Valley has been in use for roughly 50 years, and many of the compounds used over that time period contain probable human carcinogens that have been linked to birth defects, nervous system disorders and reproductive problems. Pesticide residues also pose an ongoing threat to wildlife and can run off into surface waters or leach into groundwater, which can then contaminate underground water sources and wells. Construction can uncover toxic hot spots, and winds can carry contaminated dust into homes, yards and waterways.

Turf Valley's plans were originally filed in the mid-1980s, prior to the enactment of any of the county's current slate of environmental protections (for stream buffers, steep slopes, floodplain and forest conservation). Perhaps that is why the developer has proceeded with what many consider a cavalier disregard for the most basic precautionary environmental measures - testing at only a meager number of self-selected sites for a relatively few modern compounds.

But this isn't the first such environmental "end-run" at Turf Valley. The state's environmental authority levied a $100,000 fine in 2000 for unpermitted construction work that damaged the headwaters of the Little Patuxent River. According to The Sun (Jan. 25, 2001), the developer continued with that project through to completion - in flagrant disregard of Howard County's inspectors' issuance of a stop-work order.

We thank the Ulman administration and health officer Dr. Peter Beilenson, in particular, for taking precautionary action to ensure comprehensive testing, the first step in safeguarding public health and the headwaters of the Little Patuxent River.

Lee Walker Oxenham Ellicott City

The writer is conservation co-chair of the Howard County Sierra Club.

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