Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dredging Blamed for Groundwater Woes in Maryland

By: Nathan Lamb

A dumping site formerly used to maintain a key canal between Baltimore and Philadelphia has contaminated drinking water in a Maryland community, according to this report in the Cecil Daily Whig.

A recently published U.S. Geological Survey concluded there’s “overwhelming evidence” the old Pearce Creek dredging disposal site in Earleville contaminated groundwater at the property and neighboring parcels.

The disposal site closed in 1992, but the study found concentrations of beryllium, arsenic, cadmium and thallium that exceed health advisories from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Also mentioned were high levels of sulfate, iron, chloride and low pH in the groundwater. The disposal site operated for 55 years, closing after neighbors on private wells complained about poor water quality.

The two-year study evaluated 35 wells at the disposal site and another 15 in the nearby West View Shores community. The majority of contaminants were found at the disposal site, but two residential wells contained high levels of beryllium, which can cause internal lesions.

The disposal site was operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A Corps spokesperson acknowledged the dredging was a “contributing factor” on the water quality, adding that the outcome was unexpected and previous water studies were inconclusive.

The Corps has been advocating reactivation of the disposal site as a cost-effective tool in maintaining the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, which saves roughly 300 miles of sea jaunts between Baltimore to Philadelphia.

The Corps is proposing new containment measures at the Pearce Creek disposal site and has offered to drill new wells for the impacted neighbors. That proposal has already come under fire from at least some neighbors, who say that doesn’t address existing contaminants.

Earlville is off the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay, roughly 70 miles east of Baltimore.

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