State trying to find source of explosives

Unexploded materials discovered in rocks near Arundel home

August 05, 2008|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,Sun reporter

State environmental officials said yesterday that they are trying to determine the source of several pounds of undetonated explosives found last month embedded in rocks that were deposited along a private shoreline in Anne Arundel County.

A spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of the Environment said that it is unclear how the explosives ended up in the 200 tons of rocks placed behind a home in the Severna Park community of Round Bay, where a couple had sought to stop erosion on the beach behind their house.

"Once we determine the source of the materials, we will then know what, if any, jurisdiction that MDE would have," said MDE spokeswoman Kim Lamphier, who said she could not speculate on what kind of penalties might be involved.

The rocks were supplied by Capitol Heights-based D.C. Aggregates LLC, according to the property owner and Anne Arundel County fire officials. D.C. Aggregates owner John Driggs, who owns a large site contracting company called the Driggs Corp., did not return phone messages seeking comment yesterday.

The explosives were discovered July 26, attracting local, state and federal authorities, including a bomb squad and the U.S. Coast Guard, to the Severn River shoreline that sits just a few miles north of Annapolis. Homes within 1,000 feet were evacuated, and fireboats kept boaters away.

Battalion Chief Matthew Tobia, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, said nine pounds of explosives were removed from the site but did not pose an immediate safety risk. He said the materials will only detonate if a blasting cap is applied or if the rocks come under significant force.

Though some explosives are believed to still be beneath the rocks, Tobia said none was visible and removal was beyond the resources of fire personnel.

"This is now a civil matter for the property owner and the contractors who delivered the rock to the shoreline to find a resolution, which includes examining each and every rock for potential remaining unexploded ordinance," Tobia said.

Property owner Richard Roden, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University, found the explosives during a walk along the shoreline with his wife. He said D.C. Aggregates "will not pay to remove the stone or take responsibility."

"We have been at an impasse for over a week," Roden said.

On its Web site, D.C. Aggregates says it "accepts broken concrete, rock and rubble from area contractors" and reduces its size through the use of "crushers," screening the crushed material to specified sizes.

"Recycling broken concrete and rock from highway, street, bridge and building projects saves precious landfill space, reduces truck traffic, lowers fuel consumption and provides less expensive, quality materials for new construction," the Web site says.

It was unclear whether any other stones from the batch that was used to supply materials for the Severna Park shoreline had been placed on other properties.

A spokeswoman for County Executive John R. Leopold said he is "closely monitoring this situation."

"To our knowledge, the EPA, Coast Guard, and the state Fire Marshal's Office are working to draft a plan of action," said spokeswoman Audra Harrison. "The County will continue to work with state and federal agencies."

Lamphier said that the MDE bureau of mines is working to determine what company had the permit to blast the original rock.

"Driggs is not blasting the rock out, they're hauling it from somewhere else and shipping it for other uses," she said. "We're looking at what regulations may have been violated and who has jurisdiction over it."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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