Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Poisoning Our Wells

Today's Capital reports on an issue that caught my attention for the first time several months ago, the risk that certain waste disposal practices pose to our drinking water sources. The article reports that heavy metals have been found in a number of wells in Gambrills. High levels of beryllium, cadmium, thallium, aluminum, manganese and sulfate have been discovered in at least six wells.

According to a statement from the Health Department, beryllium has not been shown to be harmful to humans, but animal testing has linked the element to ulcers.

Cadmium can cause stomach irritation, kidney and liver damage and fragile bones. The substance was found in four of the five wells, sometimes at levels three times the acceptable Environmental Protection Agency level, the health department said.

Thallium, when ingested in large amounts over a few days can cause temporary hair loss and affect kidneys, intestines, blood, nervous system, heart, lungs and liver. No effects have been reported when only small amounts are ingested, the health department said.

Aluminum, manganese and sulfate may cause cosmetic or aesthetic affects in water, but has no enforceable safety level, the health department said.

So where are these heavy metals coming from? Could it be the site where Constellation Energy is dumping its fly ash into open Crofton sand mines? Sand mines that also happen to be located in the primary groundwater re-charge area for the Magothy aquifer?

According to the spokesman for Constellation, "The elevated levels could be a natural occurrence." Indeed, they could be. It couldalso be a good idea to plug the giant geological water filter in the middle of Anne Arundel County with the heavy-metal laden spoils from coal-fired power plants, but I doubt it.

Let's hope the next Councilman from District 4, and the new County Executive, pay more attention to this than the current ones have.

They may want to start by testing for: nickel, vanadium, arsenic, barium, chromium, copper, molybdenum, zinc, lead, selenium and radium, other heavy metals often found in fly ash.

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