Tainted Cecil County land eyed for cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed Tuesday taking over cleanup of a former fireworks and munitions plant near Elkton in Cecil County because of extensive groundwater contamination there.

The agency announced it was proposing the Dwyer property, as the 73-acre tract is known, for inclusion on the Superfund National Priorities List, a compendium of the most polluted sites in the nation.

The abandoned and overgrown property has been under investigation by the Maryland Department of the Environment since 1989. This year, the state asked the EPA to put the site on the Superfund list after finding high levels of trichloroethene, a widely used cleaning solvent that is considered a probable carcinogen, in groundwater. Other toxic chemicals have been detected.

The site was home to a munitions plant, Triumph Explosives Inc., which made 40-millimeter shells during World War II, and fireworks, flares and batteries at other times. Work halted there in 1972, and state and federal officials have been unable to find any individual or company to hold responsible for the contamination.

The Cecil County property is one of nine nationally proposed for addition to the Superfund list. The agency will make a final decision after allowing 60 days for public comment.

tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

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