Governor Martin O’ Malley has submitted a request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review two sites in Maryland as potential candidates for the EPA’s National Priorities List. The two sites in Maryland under examination are the Dwyer property in Elkton and Sauer Dump in Baltimore County. Superfund sites (those sites on the National Priorities List) are considered to be the most hazardous waste sites in the nation. Gazette reporter Linda Strowbridge provides an overview of the environmental and health threats these particular sites pose:
The Dwyer property in Elkton was once the site of Triumph Industries, which produced Army and Navy munitions during World War II, as well as explosives, signal flares and fireworks. Later, tenants of the sprawling, 1,200-acre facility manufactured carbon-based batteries and other flares and munitions.
State environment officials, who began investigating the site in the mid-1990s, discovered multiple patches of contamination. They brought in the EPA to clean up a “fire hole,” which had been a testing site for explosives and was contaminated with TNT.
State officials also found deposits of chlorinated solvents, volatile organic compounds and inorganic contaminants in area groundwater supplies, but opted to have state crews handle that cleanup.
However, “in one recent investigation, [MDE] found there was about a foot-thick layer of almost pure trichloroethylene in the subsurface,” Carroll said. (Jim Carroll is the program administrator for MDE’s land restoration program)
An industrial solvent commonly used to degrease metal, TCE has been linked to multiple health problems, ranging from headaches and dizziness to irregular heart rhythms, cardiac arrest, respiratory failure and cancer, according to the EPA.
In North Point in Baltimore County, EPA and MDE officials began investigating contamination at a former landfill/salvage yard (Sauer Dump) in 1984.
Set on marshy land on the western bank of Back River, the site had received large quantities of debris in the 1950s and 1960s, including plasterboard, auto parts, wood, plastics and drums. Investigators think the Sauer Dump had been used to store as many as 250 drums containing residual quantities of motor oil and lubricants.
Soil, sediment and surface water tests later detected elevated levels of pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and semi-volatile organic compounds. Tests performed in 2001 and 2002 revealed areas of exceptionally high concentration of PCBs, so-called PCB hot spots, and the presence of a transformer-like object that was leaking PCBs.
PCBs cause a wide variety of health effects, often at very low exposure levels. They can alter the body’s immune, hormone, nervous and enzyme systems, thus potentially damaging a wide variety of body organs and functions, according to the EPA.
If the sites are approved as Superfund sites, it could be several decades before cleanup is complete.