Revision to radium report is considered in Pasadena


County Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy, faced with criticism of a report on what to do about a cancer-causing agent in Pasadena well water, said yesterday it could be updated in six months to include recommendations from former members of a task force formed to study the issue.

"If they want to put more in and it's credible and accurate, then it should be added," said Murphy, as she released the report yesterday. Still, she stood by the report, saying the task force members' criticisms don't undermine the report's credibility.

William DeLawder, one of four former task force members who said the report was misleading, expects to contact his former colleagues to consider what additions they might submit to the study.

"It's an opportunity for us to get that information in there, and I think we should take advantage of it," said DeLawder, founder of Citizens Against Radium Poisoning, a group favoring public water for the Pasadena peninsula. "We've got six months, but we can certainly do it in six weeks."

The 78-page report, written by environmental risk consultant Lester A. Ettlinger, concludes that taking public water to the Pasadena peninsula may increase peninsula development by 25 percent and calls for wells countywide to be tested for radium, a naturally occurring radioactive metal associated with bone tumors.

The report also calls for requiring treatment systems for wells with high levels of radium, even if public water lines are approved, because the project likely would take more than five years. It estimates the cost of public water for each household to range from $21,350 to $49,850 over 30 years.

The report is meant to help residents find solutions to elevated levels of radium detected in 1997 and 1998 in wells in Crownsville, Millersville, Pasadena, Severn and Severna Park. More than half of the 514 wells sampled exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's maximum level of 15 picocuries a liter, according to the county Health Department.

The Pasadena Citizens' Task Force on Radium was created in December by Murphy, a Pasadena Democrat who appointed Ettlinger, a nuclear engineer and former Johns Hopkins University physics professor, as chairman.

Ettlinger quit as chairman in May, because, he said, members weren't objective. The group was split between those who wanted public water and those who didn't, he said, so he wrote the report himself.

Former task force members disputed his account, saying they resigned, because Ettlinger would not allow members to review or contribute to the report, until after he presented to Murphy.

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