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Water tests thwarted Landowners won't give access, county says


Two reticent property owners are thwarting efforts to pinpoint the source of ground water contamination near the Millersville Landfill, county utilities officials say.

The owners of two sites near the 567-acre facility have so far refused to allow the county Department of Utilities access to their properties to install test wells, department spokeswoman Lisa Rittertold said at a meeting Wednesday night with nearby residents at Odenton Elementary School.

But one property owner, Gary F. Ridgely, agreed yesterday to meet with county officials this weekend to discuss the issue, Ritter said.

Ridgely said yesterday that the county never asked to come onto his land. He said a test well the consultant dug a well at his neighbor's home, damaging his yard.

"I'm not trying to be a bad guy," he said. "But they made a mess next door. . . . If they contact me, I'll talk to them."

Although the department has no reason to believe any contamination is coming from either of the two parcels off New Cut Road, the monitoring wells at the two sites would "fill out the map" for a test pattern in the area.

"We are in the process of trying to gain friendly access," Ritter told area residents. "Testing at these two parcels would complement the data we already have."

Steve Shugart, a consultant hired by the county to design new environmentally safe disposal areas for the landfill, said the two property owners "decided it is not in their best interest" to allow the test wells.

He said the county cannot force its way on to the property unless it can prove some sort of contamination exists and that it could be harmful to neighbors.

Attorney Michael Pierson, one of three trustees for Security Trust Co., which owns 97 acres of undeveloped land near the landfill, refused to say why the company hasn't allowed access to the property.

Residents heard of the county's difficulties with the two property owners at Wednesday's meeting, in which county and state officials gave a lengthy briefing, trying to explain their efforts to locate the source of contamination found in well water at four homes near the landfill.

But area residents were anything but satisfied with the presentation.

"The state says my well isn't contaminated because of the landfill," said Charles Morris, whose well has a higher-than-acceptable amount of a chemical normally found in a common cleaning solvent. "That's what I'm hearing. This is a question I need answered before I leave here tonight. How did my well get contaminated?"

But utilities officials say they may never be certain of the source of the contamination, which first showed up in levels higher than federal drinking water standards in April in two residential wells.

Since then, the same chemical -- tetrachloroethylene, used in dry-cleaning products -- has turned up in two more residential wells. All four homes with contaminated wells are located northeast of the landfill. Traces of pollutants similar to those found in ground water beneath the landfill have been detected in a total of 20 residential wells near the trash facility.

Although the chemical has been found in two test wells near the center of the landfill, officials insist there is no evidence that the solvent has spread from the dump site because test wells dug between the landfill and the contaminated residential wells have shown no trace of the chemical.

County officials told residents they will continue digging test wells and expect to make more data available next week.

While utilities officials haven't ruled out the landfill as culprit, they say another suspect is a septic tank located on one of the four properties with a highly contaminated well. Last week the tank was found to have solvent chemicals at levels 10 times higher than those in the wells in the same area.

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