County planners fear that the long-awaited Hampstead bypass project could be jeopardized because the proposed route runs through a contaminated area designated for cleanup by Black & Decker Corp.

After an Aug. 14 meeting with the Wolf Hill Community Association to discussa revised alignment for the southern terminus, a state highway official told county planner J. Scott Fischer that contamination problems behind the Black & Decker plant threaten the project, said Fischer.

"It was kind of a matter-of-fact thing he threw out after the meeting was over. It surprised me," said Fischer, adding that rerouting the bypass around the property would be difficult.

"The extent of the problem is unclear," he said. "Based on what the State Highway Administration told us, it sounded like it would be a problem. I'm going along with that assumption."

Black & Decker is near the southernend of the proposed 5.8-mile Route 30 bypass, a project designed to divert traffic from the heavily traveled commuter corridor connectingsouthern Pennsylvania and North Carroll to the Baltimore area.

The project has been planned for more than 20 years and has been the object of intense lobbying by Carroll officials. Construction once had been tentatively scheduled for 1992, but money for new state road projects has run dry.

The project is estimated at $31.5 million, although the road design still is evolving. The state has not begun planning for a Manchester bypass, which eventually could connect to the Hampstead bypass. County officials have lobbied unsuccessfully to have the two projects considered as one.

Contamination problems behind the North Carroll Shopping Center also have forced disruption in the design at the northern end of the Hampstead bypass.

Tetrachloroethane, a carcinogen present in dry-cleaning solvents, was detected in ground water monitoring wells. The site is listed under the federal Superfund program for hazardous waste cleanup, but remediation has not begun. The state Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Administration recommended to SHA that an alternative highway alignment be planned since remediation is "not expected to be completed within the next several years."

To avoid the area while ground water cleanup efforts continue, highway planners have redesigned the route as an interim measure, shortening it by about one-half mile.

Although contamination was documented at the shopping center in 1987, the project engineerfor the northern section of the bypass said highway planners were not aware of the problem until late last year.

A revised preliminarydesign ties the bypass into existing Route 30 south of Brodbeck Road; plans call for eventually extending it north of Brodbeck Road to Cape Horn Road.

"I was of the impression we'd be seeing a Hampstead bypass at least by the mid-'90s, but all this makes it a little more uncertain," said Fischer, the planner for Hampstead and Manchester. "So many things are up in the air."

Hazardous wastes in highway rights of way have become a widespread problem for state transportation departments, says the Washington-based Transportation Research Board,a non-profit policy analysis organization. Stringent environmental laws and regulations adopted in the 1980s could expose the departmentsto full responsibility for cleanup and exorbitant costs that could kill projects, the research board says.

The Maryland Department of the Environment detected contamination -- several carcinogens such astrichloroethylene (TCE) and toluene -- in a production well behind Black & Decker while investigating gasoline tank leakage from another Hampstead business in 1984. Testing over the past few years traced the contamination to underground storage tanks for industrial solvents on Black & Decker's 150-acre property, said MDE spokesman John Goheen. The tanks have since been removed and emptied.

The company has agreed to clean ground water contaminated by the leaks. Remediation, scheduled to begin in three to six months, will include pumping and cleaning ground water and purifying soil through a heating process. It is uncertain how long remediation will take, said Goheen.

Highway officials, who say they weren't aware of the Black & Decker situationwhen the route was planned, are awaiting more detailed information from MDE before deciding how to proceed on the project.

"From a legal standpoint, when you purchase property with contamination, you become the owner of the problem, and that creates a problem," said Stephen Drumm, chief of SHA's division of highway design. "We certainly wouldn't want the responsibility of cleaning a hazardous waste site added to the cost of the project."

The state has acquired little landalong the proposed route and has not purchased the property behind Black & Decker.

Drumm said design work is continuing and the project has not been delayed, but the Black & Decker situation "certainly has the potential" to set it back.

Meanwhile, county transportationplanner Rob Yingling is trying to convince the state Department of Transportation to contribute to a joint Maryland-Pennsylvania study ofthe Route 30 corridor. The study would be to develop a more unified plan for the entire stretch of highway.

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