Construction equipment is in place at 2425 Whiteford Road in Whiteford and it appears the long-awaited clean up of arsenic-contaminated soil from a 26-acre parcel at that address is poised to begin any day, according to the Maryland Department of Environment.
The former site of the Miller Chemical & Fertilizer Corporation, the property is adjacent to the former Whiteford Packing Company, the two properties having once been separated by a rail line.
The Miller Chemical property, now vacant, was used for years for an operation that manufactured and distributed pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides for farming operations. In 1984 and again in 2001, after operations had ceased at Miller Chemical, the Maryland Department of Environment took soil samples at the property and found elevated levels of arsenic, a poison and possible carcinogen.
Arsenic concentrations of 1,660 parts per billion were found in subsurface soil and 459 parts per billion found in surface soil, according to a Maryland Department of Environment brief on the site. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says 10 parts per billion of arsenic in drinking water is the maximum safe level. This level was adjusted down from 50 parts per billion in 2002.
After Miller Chemical ceased operation at 2425 Whiteford Road (the property is now owned by a successor company, Lebanon-Seaboard Corporation), the manufacturing facility was razed.
It had consisted of buildings and two waste ponds, into which waste water from the chemical operation had been drained. The ponds drained, via a ditch, into a tributary of Scott Run.
Miller Chemical ceased discharging into the ponds in 1976, but the operation continued until the mid 1980s. Meanwhile, Whiteford Packing continued to discharge into the ponds, as had been done for years previously, according to MDE.
When the chemical mixing building was razed, debris from the demolition was used as fill at the site of one of the ponds. The ponds had been drained into a nearby creek and a deed restriction placed on the property that precluded the land from being disturbed because of contamination, according to MDE.
Further studies of the property and surrounding areas conducted in 2005 and 2006 and in June 2008, MDE ordered the owners of the property and responsible parties to develop a remediation schedule within 30 days.
While that plan was put together within the allotted time and subsequently approved by MDE on Aug. 25, 2009, no work has been done to date.
That's because the responsible parties "have spent over four years obtaining more than 25 State and County permits, approvals, access agreements and waivers needed to conduct remedial activities," according to an MDE report on the project.
Those permits and permissions were secured earlier this fall, and Miller Chemical's owners have hired a contractor that was expected to begin site preparation in October, with work to start in full shortly thereafter. As of this week, excavation equipment was on the property poised to begin work.