CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

The Baltimore Sun

Chestertown factory agrees to cleanup

A chemical factory in Chestertown has agreed to clean up potentially cancer-causing pollution in the soil and groundwater on the Eastern Shore and pay $200,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Maryland Department of the Environment, state officials said yesterday.

Velsicol Chemical Corp. which makes ingredients for plastics and vinyl flooring, among other products, was accused by the state of violating the law by releasing benzene, a known human carcinogen, and other toxic chemicals into underground water supplies near the plant on Route 297 in Kent County, according to the settlement agreement.

The Chester River Association has been pushing the state to force the company to clean up the site. The settlement was announced by the state attorney general's office.

A spokesman for Velsicol did not immediately return a phone call yesterday. The company purchased the plant in 1994 from another firm, with the site being used for a half-century for chemical production. For many years, the plant used a series of unlined pools to hold wastewater, and the pollutants leached through the soil into the groundwater, according to the state.

As part of the settlement agreement, Velsicol must submit a cleanup plan to the state and examine drinking water sampling results in a one-mile radius around the plant to see if pollution contaminated the water supplies of homes in the area.

Among the pollutants of concern are Bis 2-Ethylhexl Phthalate (BEHP), which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified as a probable human carcinogen, and toluene, which can cause death or seizures at high doses.

Tom Pelton

Baltimore

Little Italy

Mounted officer injured in fall

A Baltimore police officer suffered minor injuries about noon yesterday after he fell from his horse in Little Italy, police said.

Officer William E. Phelps, a 17-year veteran, was getting on his horse, Blue Belle, at Stiles and Albemarle streets and had one foot in a stirrup when a loud bang spooked the animal, causing it to run unexpectedly, said Sterling Clifford, a city police spokesman.

Phelps tried to get into the saddle but could not and fell to the ground. His head hit the pavement, causing him to lose consciousness briefly, police said. The impact caused his helmet to split in half, Clifford said.

The officer was taken to Maryland Shock-Trauma Center, where he was in serious condition yesterday afternoon, said Cindy Rivers, a hospital spokeswoman.

The horse was uninjured, Clifford said.

Annie Linskey

South side

Sulfuric acid spill contained; one hurt

Firefighters worked yesterday morning to contain a spill of sulfuric acid at the Maryland Chemical Co. on Childs Street in South Baltimore.

A Fire Department spokesman said a contract worker was injured when some of the chemical spilled on his hands.

Chief Kevin Cartwright said the worker, whose age and identity were not available, was taken to a hospital.

He said the man had been trying to repair a 4,000-gallon tank when it ruptured about 9:30 a.m.

Most of the spill was contained by a berm set up for that purpose, and Cartwright said there are "no concerns environmentally."

The Fire Department contained the spill by 11 a.m.

Traffic

City backs away from parking limits

Baltimore's Parking Authority partially backed down from its decision to impose two-hour parking restrictions on two blocks of Calvert Street near Penn Station. The agency once again is allowing all-day parking on the east side of the street. Peter E. Little, executive director of the authority, said the agency is evaluating its parking restrictions on the west side of Calvert between Mount Royal Avenue and Federal Street and expects to make a decision whether to continue two-hour parking before the end of the week. The city's decision late last month to restrict parking on Calvert - reported Monday in The Sun - drew protests from MARC riders. Little said he ordered the signs on the east side removed in time for yesterday's morning rush hour.

Michael Dresser

Baltimore County

Schools

Improvements worth $12 million approved

Despite opposition from some parents, the Baltimore County school board last night approved a proposal to spend an additional $12 million on projects such as work on parking lots and tennis courts in the next school year.

The money became available after the County Council voted Monday to accept County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s recommendation to redirect the money, which was freed up after the school board rescinded its approval of plans to expand Loch Raven High School.

Forty-two site improvement projects worth $20 million were on a list that school officials had requested last fall, but only $2 million worth of them had been approved.

For weeks, parents have been appealing to school system administrators, board members and legislators to use the money for installation of air conditioning. Of the county's 166 schools, 94 lack air-conditioned classrooms.

Last night, the school board approved a "prioritized" list of the site improvement projects, something Smith had requested. Projects at the top of the list include rebuilding tennis courts at Owings Mills and Overlea high schools and Pikesville Middle School; parking lot work at Dundalk Elementary, Parkville High and Loch Raven Middle schools and the Eastwood Center; an alternate entrance at Chatsworth Elementary; and replaced tracks at Milford Mill Academy and Chesapeake High.

Gina Davis

York Road

Body found in car; police say it's suicide

Baltimore County police said a man whose body was found yesterday in a shopping center in the 6400 block of York Road had killed himself.

Police recovered the body from a car about 5:30 p.m. Police are not saying how the man committed suicide and are not releasing his identification.

A police spokesman said the man appeared to be in his 30s.

Brent Jones

Harford County

School board

Williams resigns, won't be reappointed

The vice president of the Harford County Board of Education has resigned after being informed she would not be reappointed to a second term.

Salina M. Williams, who was the only minority on the seven-member Harford County school board, gave a farewell speech at a board meeting Monday night. Williams, appointed in 2003 by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., had sought reappointment this year. Had she gotten the nod from Annapolis, Williams would have been Harford County's next school board president.

Patrick L. Hess was selected as the school board president and Lee Merrell was named the vice president Monday night.

Maryland

Annapolis

Analysts expect another shortfall

Budget analysts warned state lawmakers yesterday that a decline in personal income tax, sales tax and other revenue is expected to leave a $200 million shortfall from the last fiscal year and the current one. That budget shortfall comes on top of an expected $500 million gap between revenue and spending for the next fiscal year. The signs of fiscal trouble are emerging months after the General Assembly convened a special session to raise taxes by $1.3 billion and to cut spending by hundreds of millions of dollars.

"The shortfalls are coming back," Warren G. Deschenaux, the legislature's chief fiscal analyst, said in a hearing before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Gov. Martin O'Malley anticipates plugging future deficits with an estimated $600 million in revenue from slot machines, if voters approve the legalization of the gambling devices in a November referendum. The state also has a cushion in its general fund and a rainy-day fund. But if voters reject slots or if the economy continues to slide, lawmakers will be forced to act, Deschenaux said.

Laura Smitherman

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