Hampstead Overlook developer to do more environmental testing

Alex Mann
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

After extended public scrutiny over the potential presence of volatile organic compounds on a proposed development in Hampstead, representatives of Florida Rock Properties Inc. on Wednesday said the company will do more tests with hopes of supporting its original findings and gaining the community’s trust.

“We’re pursuing [additional testing] no matter what. There’s a trust issue going on and I don’t like that,” Dave deVilliers III, vice president of Florida Rock, told the Times after the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

“We’re going to entertain, within reason, how we can close that [trust gap].”

Town residents and adjacent Carroll County neighbors have rallied against Hampstead Overlook, the 270-home residential community proposed to be erected on a 118-acre lot along Houcksville Road, saying it’s unsafe to put families on the property because of arsenic and chlorinated solvents — trichloroethylene, or TCE, and tetrachloroethylene, or PCE — discovered on the land.

“To reiterate, for those of you who may not have been at the last meeting, we are concerned about the toxic carcinogen PCE and the possibility of vapor intrusion,” Brittany Phillips, who’s been outspoken in opposition of the development, told the commission. “This dangerous chemical can vaporize, allowing the gasses to enter into the foundation of homes and exposing (sic) families.”

The town rezoned the 118-acre property from industrial to residential in 2016. Hampstead officials this fall recognized an error in the advertising process leading to the introduction of development. Hampstead effectively restarted the planning and zoning process by reintroducing the petition for rezoning at the mayor and council meeting Nov. 13.

Planning commission members Wednesday voted to recommend the council again accept the petition to rezone the Hampstead Overlook plot from industrial to residential. The vote was unanimous and the petition will move on to a public hearing immediately preceding the Tuesday, Dec. 11, council meeting — where the lawmakers will vote to approve or deny rezoning.

Phillips at the public meeting Wednesday said she met personally with deVilliers — who confirmed the two met Sunday — to discuss soliciting a third-party to conduct additional soil vapor testing. Phillips said deVilliers told her to come back with a company that could do the testing and that deVilliers agreed Florida Rock would consider the option. The developer did not guarantee that Florida Rock would employ the company Phillips proposed to complete the tests. Phillips and deVilliers corroborated each other’s account of the interaction.

Phillips, who grew up on the property which was then the Leister Family Farm, told the commission and public she is in the process of researching a company capable of doing the soil vapor tests.

“It’s nice that they’re working with us,” Phillips told the Times on Thursday. “I just want more testing done and I want better testing done.”

The current green light status of the development is based on three test wells on the east side of the property, Phillips said. Two of those aren’t close to the original contamination, which was centrally located.

Florida Rock is still not promising they’ll employ the company or contractor that Phillips suggests, deVilliers told the Times. But the development company will do more exact vapor tests — no matter what, he added.

Said deVilliers, Florida Rock’s contractor Geo-Technology Associates Inc. did do soil vapor tests originally and that those tests revealed no detected chemicals.

Phillips has long contested that Florida Rock did the bare minimum in its testing so far.

DeVilliers said the company recently found out “we can lower the detection limit” and that in the forthcoming vapor tests he’ll instruct the third party to use the lowest possible detection unit.

According to deVilliers, the steps for further environmental testing are as follows:

  • Maryland Department of the Environment must approve the testing sites (within the property) and the testing methods — how the samples are to be extracted.
  • Florida Rock accompanies Geo-Technology Associates — and potentially another third party — to collect samples from the property via the state agency approved method.
  • The sample is sent to an independent lab for MDE approved testing.
  • The independent lab conducts the tests.
  • Results are sent to Geo-Technology for review.
  • Finally, the same results are sent for MDE review.

DeVilliers said he’s asked MDE to supervise the collection of the samples. It’s unclear at this time whether that will occur.

Phillips said Thursday that she’d like to be involved in the process of selecting the exact sample collection sites but that it’s encouraging that Florida Rock has agreed to pursue further testing.

Hampstead Mayor Christopher Nevin lauded Florida Rock for agreeing to pursue further testing. Nevin has consistently deferred to MDE experts who approved the original environmental tests in expressing confidence in the project’s safety. Some town and nearby county residents have been vocally skeptical.

“It shows the confidence [Florida Rock] have in the testing they’ve done to date that they will follow up with another test,” Nevin told the Times late Wednesday. “In doing so, I think the hope is to further ameliorate concern.”

alex.mann@carrollcountytimes.com

667-367-4291

twitter.com/alex_mann10

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