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Turf Valley called safe


A developer-commissioned environmental report concludes that chemicals and pesticides used for decades to maintain the golf courses in Turf Valley pose no health hazard.

However, the study is likely to be challenged by opponents of a proposed major expansion of the luxury planned community in western Howard County.

The Maryland Department of the Environment will hold a hearing tonight on a request by Mangione Family Enterprises, the owner of the development, for a wetlands permit - the first step in extending the major road through Turf Valley.

The road extension is part of a broader expansion sought by Mangione of the 800-acre development.

Opponents of that expansion are expected to urge the state to deny or delay the wetlands permit until further environmental testing of the property has been conducted.

A report by Advantage Environmental Consultants LLC of Jessup says additional testing is unwarranted.

Analysis of soil samples found small concentrations of toxic chemicals and pesticides used on the golf courses, but they represent no health threat, the report says. Advantage Environmental was commissioned by Mangione to perform the tests.

The developer was not required to have tests performed, but chose to do so because the company wanted to determine if there were environmental problems.

"It shows that there are no reasons to be concerned about contamination at Turf Valley," said Louis Mangione, vice president of the family-owned business and the leader of the expansion efforts.

Marc Norman, co-chairman of a coalition fighting expansion of Turf Valley, said the testing was incomplete, particularly because it did not include the sites of the former and current chemical storage facilities.

"It makes one wonder about the completeness of their examination," he said. "If you don't test where you should, it leads you to question the validity of their conclusions."

The soil tests were conducted July 20. Results of such tests typically are kept confidential. These, however, were filed with the county as part of a political compromise in the General Assembly that helped kill legislation to require soil analysis of golf courses being converted into residential development.

Advantage Environmental Consultants performed 13 tests, each 4 to 12 inches below the surface, according to its report. The analysis found minor concentrations of arsenic, mercury, nitrates and elements of organochlorine pesticides.

"The levels of organic compounds and metals found in the shallow soil do not pose a concern to the current configuration of the site or its proposed redevelopment," the report says. "Furthermore, these levels would not be expected to trigger any state or federal requirements including further investigation or site cleanup."

Norman said he is concerned because Advantage Environmental did not provide a rationale for the sites selected for the testing.

"You don't have a Love Canal here," he said, referring to the health and environmental tragedies that resulted in the late 1970s from using the canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y., as a municipal and industrial chemical dumpsite. "But some areas show there may be issues."

Mangione said the soil tests conclusively demonstrate there "is no reason to delay or deny anything."

Mangione is seeking a non-tidal wetlands permit for construction of Resort Road to Marriottsville Road and access roads, reconstruction of Marriottsville and installation of underground utility lines.

The work would require excavating, filling and grading in nontidal wetlands and state waters.

Turf Valley once had three golf courses, the first dating to the 1950s. Mangione has eliminated 18 holes and plans to develop some of that land. The project has 130 homes, 26 villas and a hotel and resort center. Zoning regulations permit an additional 1,379 housing units and about 1 million square feet in commercial space.

Mangione has sought to increase the density from two homes an acre to 2.15 homes an acre, or about 121 units. This year, he withdrew that application, but it is expected that he will renew the request.

Tonight's meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 o'clock in the Banneker Room at the county's central complex in Ellicott City.

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