Tainted water flowing toward edge of landfill


An underground stream with high levels of a carcinogenic solvent is flowing west toward the border of a closed hazardous waste landfill on Solley Road and has nearly reached Marley Neck Boulevard, state environmental officials say.

Browning-Ferris Industries, owner of the dump, is digging 10 wells on property adjacent to the landfill to monitor the possible spread of contamination and has emergency authority to pump the contaminated flow from another new well that has been dug just inside the landfill's boundary.

Water containing 800 parts per billion of trichloroethelene was detected several weeks ago near the western edge of the old Solley Road landfill, said Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. The drinking water standard is five parts per billion of the solvent, known as TCE.

The contaminated water hasn't threatened nearby wells because it is still on the landfill property, he said. High levels of the carcinogen would not be unusual by the landfill mounds, but there was concern when they turned up so far from the heaps.

The 65-acre landfill accepted hazardous materials for a generation before BFI bought it and set aside a section in 1980 for hazardous waste. It was closed by state order in 1982, and the cap that is supposed to seal it has failed in at least two spots. BFI is preparing to reseal the leaking landfill.

BFI, with emergency permission from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, has been pumping 12 gallons of contaminated water a minute from the well on the landfill property, which has been operating for three weeks. It is likely to pump for at least two more weeks, said Denis M. Zielinski, an EPA environmental scientist.

"As soon as we feel they have gotten all of the TCE, then we will have them shut it off," he said.

Mr. Zielinski said he is encouraged that the concentration of TCE, although it has risen in the extraction well, has dropped in nearby test wells, indicating that the extraction well is pulling out the hazardous material.

In addition to the stream with the high TCE levels, a stream of about 15 volatile organic chemicals has been flowing underground toward the western border of the landfill faster than expected, Mr. Zielinski said. It was originally estimated that the flow about 40 feet east of Marley Neck Road, was moving about 10 feet a year, but it is actually moving an average of 10 feet a month, he said.

Jill Nelson, project manager for BFI, said the company does not want the contamination to go beyond its property.

The test wells being dug are on the property of John Blumenthal, who fears that his plans for a housing development on that land could be threatened. He has submitted to county officials a proposal to build more than 700 homes and a boat ramp on 111 acres bordered by Marley Creek and the landfill.

"We are in the process of putting together a first-class subdivision. We are concerned what the implications are of having this going on," Mr. Blumenthal said.

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