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State to begin testing of wells near landfill


State officials are to begin testing private wells between Marley Neck Boulevard and Marley Creek because levels of cancer-causing solvents seeping from a closed hazardous-waste landfill nearby have increased sharply since last summer.

Samples taken from two monitoring wells last month showed that concentrations of trichloroethene (TCE) in water seeping from the landfill have increased nearly ninefold in one well and tripled in another. They have reached nearly twice the federal drinking water standard of 5 parts per billion, according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

The landfill, which closed in 1982, is owned by Browning-Ferris Industries. Ground water is carrying dangerous pollutants west from the landfill toward Marley Creek.

Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the environmental agency, said he did not know when the testing would begin or how many homes would be affected. The area is not densely populated and has some public water lines. Neither is it clear whether the homeowners draw their water from the same levels as the monitoring wells.

State environmental officials "intend to go out there and start testing those wells," Mr. Banks said. "Our perspective on this thing is strictly from a health perspective."

In a March 16 letter, the department gave Browning-Ferris until Friday to identify all private wells in the area between the creek and Marley Neck Boulevard.

The monitoring wells with the higher levels of TCE are on property immediately west of the landfill, where contaminated ground water has been flowing from the landfill. In two tests in February, one found a level of 9.6 parts per billion of TCE, up from 3.9 in July. The other showed 10 parts, up from 1.2 in July, Mr. Banks said.

Jill Nelson, Browning-Ferris project manager for the Solley Road site, said the contamination is at "extremely low levels." She said one well in that vicinity that was tested last year showed no contamination.

Ms. Nelson said the company will meet the Friday deadline to supply the information requested by the Department of the Environment. That includes describing the cause of the increased concentrations of TCE and assessing whether existing measures there can control the movement of the contaminated ground water.

The state also wants Browning-Ferris to add eight monitoring wells to the 10 already surrounding the site.

That would mean the waste hauler would have to negotiate for sites for the wells with S. John Blumenthal, who has sued the company for $100 million in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Mr. Blumenthal alleged that the company has so badly polluted the 145 acres he owns next to the landfill that he cannot use it for a housing development.

Mr. Blumenthal said he was feeling "hostile" toward Browning-Ferris and that the company has not talked to him.

Ms. Nelson and other Browning-Ferris officials will be at a community meeting tonight at which a consultant to the community will present its critique of the company's plans to fix the site where environmental protections are failing.

Neither committee members nor the consultant would say what the report contains. Ms. Nelson said Browning-Ferris would respond at the meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the Powhatan Beach Fire Hall, on Solley Road near Roundy Lane.

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