The Police State Inside Our Schools
At the beginning of every school year, new lockers are distributed to Howard County high school students. Before my teacher actually assigned me a locker, I was required to sign a form saying the school board "reserves the right to inspect the contents of the locker and to remove anything believed contrary to school regulations or detrimental to the school or its occupants."
The form went on to say that "even if you refrain from signing the card, the school administration still has the authority to search your locker when necessary." . . . Basically, I lose my Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure when I walk onto school property.
There are many other "minor" abridgments of personal liberty in the schools, all done in the name of a better educational environment and fewer parental complaints. School newspapers, for example, are not subject to First Amendment freedom of the press. The principal can edit or censor stories as he or she sees fit.
Possession of a beeper in school, even if it's turned off . . . is punishable by jail time.
Most significantly, the Howard County school board recently enacted a new human relations policy, which makes insulting someone on the basis of race, sex, religion, creed or sexual orientation a very serious offense. If someone overhears me making a politically incorrect remark, I could be suspended. . . .
In essence, the school board has created a tiny Stalinist society. (What a great way to learn about Russian history!) People telling on people. No privacy. . . . Every written word censored, and every spoken word subject to the vague standards of the Howard County Department of Education. . . .
How about a new "human rights policy," in which the school board concentrates less on what students think and more on what they learn?
The Sun's questioning of the building of excessive golf courses in Howard County is appropriate in these economic times. The lack of teachers, classroom space, books, etc. should be the first priority of the county instead of leisure activities. . . . The county needs to pay more attention to the wants and needs of the average citizen than to the recreational desires of a comparatively small, elite slice of the community.
Uncovering Terrors At Carrs Mill Landfill
Just when you thought you'd heard enough about how dire Howard's landfill problems are, the county turns up some truly staggering new information on toxins at the Carrs Mill Landfill.
Closed for more than 12 years, and listed on maps as a "park," the landfill has levels of highly toxic contaminants that sickened even seasoned landfill crusaders like us. The picturesque, wooded glade of Woodbine in Howard's formerly pristine heartland was transformed last week into a horror movie scene. Workers in masks and full containment suits working behind taped-off restricted areas with the sickly wreak of chemicals hanging in the air, unearthed more than 30 55-gallon drums.
These contained several different toxins, primarily trichloroethene (TCE), which the EPA considers potentially carcinogenic even as low as 5 parts per billion. Thirty 55-gallon drums of TCE could render 300 billion gallons of water carcinogenic. And we now know that TCE and other compounds have shown up in streams which flow directly into the Triadelphia Reservoir and also in both shallow and deep ground water wells around the site at levels up to an unprecedented 3,000 parts per billion.
The county estimates the contaminants were dumped at Carrs Mill more than 20 years ago. Although the levels seeping into ground and surface water are terrifying, as usual, local residents remained uninformed and unaware of the existence of these appalling conditions until they recently noticed the eerie signs of activity at the site. Once again, instead of informing and helping residents understand and deal with the contamination problems has created, the county has chosen to suppress the information until it no longer can.
The astounding revelations at Carrs Mill are a grim harbinger of exactly what is to come at the county's operational Alpha Ridge Landfill. Alpha Ridge opened after Carrs Mill closed, yet has more than 10 times the amount of buried trash and already shows high levels of a much wider range of toxic volatile organics in areas extending out in different directions and at great depths. Given the enormous scale of the site (70 acres and up to 100 feet deep), the chances of locating and digging out dumped containers at Alpha Ridge are close to zero. Most
significantly, whereas Carrs Mill has only a handful of close neighbors, the wells of 400 homes and the newly opened Mount View Middle School all lie within the immediately threatened area around Alpha Ridge.
The following action is essential:
* Carrs Mill residents must be protected. Their proximity to such high levels of contaminants requires immediate action to protect water supplies. Those few adjoining properties already contaminated must be purchased to create a buffer and monitoring zone.
* The approved plans to extend public water to the large number of residents and two new schools surrounding Alpha Ridge must be expedited before ground water contamination becomes any worse.
* Long-term remediation efforts at each of the three landfill sites must be activated.
* A safe alternative solid waste disposal policy must be implemented, including temporary contracts to haul waste along with long-term decisions on the operation and location of regional sorting, reclamation, composting and incineration facilities.
The reckless practice of burying all the county's trash in 'N sensitive ground water-use areas must cease. Let us learn from these disasters that not only are we causing the county's environmental destruction, but that the costs of remediation will result in our county's financial destruction.
Donald L. Gill
L. Scott Muller