Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

August 19, 2007

Environmental testing and development

I am writing in response to recent reports in The Sun and most of Baltimore's other major media outlets about the arsenic (60 times normal) and lead (240 ppm above normal) contamination found at Turf Valley. It is unforgivable that the developer's July 23 revelations date back to 2005 testing. This is in addition to the mercury, DDT and chlordane that was previously found at Turf Valley during limited testing (13 samples across more than 800 acres).

It is unconscionable, if not actionable, that the developer and/or his attorneys appear to have withheld this information from local, state and federal officials while Howard County employees and contractors were constructing a water main across the property. The press wrote that contaminated samples were taken within 30 feet of the water main. Incredibly, it was reported that the developer said he could not recall when he first learned about the tainted soil, but called the matter "a breakdown in communication." Hopefully, the state's attorney will seek to initiate a review of this matter.

For three years, concerned citizens from across Maryland have joined environmental and medical professionals in calling upon state legislators and the Maryland Department of Environment to require comprehensive chemical testing before golf course owners are permitted to begin residential redevelopment of their land. Legislation has been co-sponsored by Del. Elizabeth Bobo and state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, but has failed to pass both houses in order to reach the governor's desk.

During this time, representatives from the Maryland Golf Course Owners Association, Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association and Turf Valley golf course have lobbied legislators to maintain the status quo of letting the industry police itself. Furthermore, MDE supported these industry lobbyists in 2005 (under the Ehrlich administration) and 2007 (under the O'Malley administration) by testifying before legislators that golf course redevelopment doesn't pose a contamination risk to the public's health and safety.

There are at least nine Maryland golf courses (in Baltimore City and county and Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Howard and Carroll counties) in the planning or construction phases of residential redevelopment.

Citizens from across the state applaud the leadership that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and his health officer, Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, have brought to this issue by promising to introduce County Council legislation that will require comprehensive environmental testing of golf course property before permitting residential redevelopment. Hopefully, county executives and legislators from across the state will support similar legislation next year in Annapolis.

While most people may believe that developers will always "do the right thing" to protect the public's health and safety, the example of Turf Valley demonstrates that our government must legislate responsible development and accountability.

Marc Norman

Ellicott City

Independent voter's views disputed

This is in regard to the Political Notebook piece "A contrarian" in the Howard section of The Sun on Aug. 12. I am baffled as to why you would give a platform for the views of a person who admits he is "inspired by Fox television personality Sean Hannity, whose judgment ... he trusts over the news as reported by The Sun or The Washington Post."

Anyone who makes such an admission has immediately disqualified himself as a thinking political observer and instead labeled himself not as the "independent voter" Mr. Glass thinks he is but rather as an uninformed believer in political smoke and mirrors. The Fox network's so-called political analysts and television personalities are little more than unofficial arms of the Republican Party and the current administration. Unlike their hypocritical claims of being "fair and balanced," they offer nothing but a completely one-sided view of all issues.

Hillary Clinton and her electability or likability (or any ability, for that matter) aside, this man's opinion on any of the preceding is hardly worth paying any attention to, let alone reporting about it in The Sun.

Harris Factor

Columbia

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