Well test­ing per­formed af­ter Elk­ton-area oil spill

Cecil Whig - - OBITUARIES & LOCAL - OBIT­U­ARY POL­ICY By CARL HAMIL­TON

ELK­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— Fam­i­lies in three ad­ja­cent homes on Blue Ball Road near Elk­ton re­mained in a wait-and-see mode Wed­nes­day — eight days af­ter a fuel truck crashed and spilled an un­de­ter­mined amount of used oil that leaked onto their prop­er­ties.

“Our in­for­ma­tion is that the truck has a 2,800-gal­lon ca­pac­ity, that it was not com­pletely full, that not all of it spilled, but we are ex­pect­ing ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion from the (fuel truck owner) com­pany on a break­down of num­bers,” Jay Ap­per­son, a spokesman for the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment, re­ported.

Re­gard­less of how many gal­lons of oil spilled — nearby res­i­dents main­tain that it was about 2,000 gal­lons based on what they heard and wit­nessed on the night of the crash — the af­fected fam­i­lies have been us­ing cases of bot­tled water for drink­ing, wash­ing clothes and bathing be­cause the sta­tus of their wells from a con­tam­i­na­tion stand­point re­mains in ques­tion.

An­gela Scram­lin, well and zoonotic dis­ease pro­gram su­per­vi­sor with the Ce­cil County Health Depart­ment, re­ported that her agency col­lected water sam­ples on the morn­ing of June 8 and sent them to a state lab in Bal­ti­more for test­ing.

As of Wed­nes­day, how­ever, those re­sults had not been re­ceived by the CCHD, ac­cord­ing to Gregg Bortz, CCHD pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cer. It typ­i­cally takes about four weeks for the state lab to send such re­sults, he noted.

Sam­ples for well test­ing also were col­lected on Mon­day by a com­pany hired by Lorco of Mary­land, the Elk­ton-based com­pany that owns the fuel truck that crashed. Lorco, which col­lects used oil from auto re­pair shops and other places, is pay­ing for the sam­ple col­lec­tion and for the test­ing of those sam­ples, which will be per­formed by a pri­vate lab at a rel­a­tively ac­cel­er­ated speed.

“The com­pany will pay for a quick turn­around of the sam­ples,” Scram­lin said, be­fore qual­i­fy­ing, how­ever, “Gen­er­ally, a week or two weeks is a quick turn­around with a pri­vate lab.”

Ap­per­son re­ported that the MDE’s Oil Con­trol Pro­gram, as one of its func­tions, in­structed Lorco to ar­range and pay for the well-test­ing work, re­fer­ring to Lorco as “the re­spon­si­ble party.”

Re­fer­ring to the CCHD’s mon­i­tor­ing of the wells, Ap­per­son com­mented, “We are sup­port­ing that en­deavor.”

The af­fected fam­i­lies in the 2400 block of Blue Ball Road will con­tinue to use bot­tled water, at least un­til the test re­sults come back. Should the re­sults show con­tam­i­na­tion, the fam­i­lies be­lieve that they will have to con­tinue us­ing bot­tled water for their ev­ery­day needs. They also have ex­pressed con­cerns that they might have to have new wells dug.

“I don’t even know where we could dig an­other well,” said Mar­sha Ad­kins, who ex­plained that her fam­ily’s ex­ist­ing 160-foot-deep well is in their front yard — the por­tion of prop­erty most im­pacted by the spilled oil.

She and her hus­band, Chuck Ad­kins, and their two boys, ages 11 and 12, have lived in the house since 1995. Her hus­band’s grand­fa­ther built the home in 1965.

“We are def­i­nitely in a hold­ing pat­tern,” Chuck Ad­kins said.

He also won­ders how long will their wells be mon­i­tored, even if the test re­sults are fa­vor­able, com­ment­ing, “I want to know about the long-term ef­fects. What about a year from now?”

In ad­di­tion, he is con­cerned what ef­fect the oil spill will have on the prop­erty value of his home and the oth­ers, ex­plain­ing that the res­i­dents would have to re­port to prospec­tive buy­ers that their prop­er­ties had been con­tam­i­nated for full dis­clo­sure.

“It would be a red flag on our real es- tate,” he re­marked.

Lorco sup­plied the Ad­kins fam­ily with six cases of bot­tled water late last week, as it did for the other fam­i­lies, but only af­ter Mar­sha Ad­kins per­sis­tently re­quested that the com­pany do so, she said.

Lorco rep­re­sen­ta­tives could not be reached for com­ment.

Mean­while, the cleanup project by Cleanup Ven­ture, a pri­vate full ser­vice en­vi­ron­men­tal con­trac­tor hired by Lorco, is con­tin­u­ing, ac­cord­ing to Ap­per­son.

“I feel like they’re not mov­ing fast enough,” said Pat Yonko, one of the af­fected res­i­dents.

Yonko, 78, whose hus­band died four years ago, has lived in her Blue Ball Road home since 1960.

The Ad­kins cou­ple said they were told that the cleanup would be com­pleted within three days af­ter the crash. But the cleanup, which in­volves the clos­ing of Blue Ball Road from War­bur­ton Road to Far­rah Lane from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ev­ery week­day, con­tin­ued Wed­nes­day and it still hadn’t been fin­ished, they added.

“We were told they were go­ing to be work­ing around the clock to clean it up,” Chuck Ad­kins said, adding that the crews, how­ever, left the site at 2 a.m. on June 8, some nine hours af­ter the crash oc­curred, and re­turned later that morn­ing.

There have been work de­lays, in­clud­ing work­ers wait­ing for the de­liv­ery of com­mer­cial garbage bins to hold nu­mer­ous bags of con­tam­i­nated dirt that had been ex­ca­vated from the spill site.

An ex­ca­va­tion site is ev­i­dent on one side of the Ad­kins’ front yard. It stretches about 60 feet from the north­bound edge of Blue Ball Road into the yards, and it is ap­prox­i­mately 15 feet wide and about a 18 inches deep in some spots.

Chuck Ad­kins ques­tioned why the op­er­a­tors of the earth-mov­ing equip­ment haven’t been dig­ging deeper and faster.

“In­stead of dig­ging it deeper, they’re skim­ming it, scrap­ping it away a lit­tle bit at a time. Then they wait and see if it (oil) comes up,” he said, adding that ac­tiv­ity at the ex­ca­va­tion site is al­ways fol­lowed by long stretches of in­ac­tiv­ity.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Clear Ven­ture could not be reached for com­ment.

Ap­per­son ex­plained that such an ex­ca­va­tion is a te­dious process. Crews me­thod­i­cally re­move a layer of con­tam­i­nated soil and then per­form tests to de­ter­mine if they need to dig deeper.

“I don’t think any­body wants to have their prop­erty or ground dug up need­lessly. There is a test­ing process,” Ap­per­son said, be­fore qual­i­fy­ing, “A sub- stan­tial amount of con­tam­i­nated soil has been ex­ca­vated.”

When an oil spill oc­curs, such as the one of Blue Ball Road, mem­bers of the MDE’s “emer­gency re­sponse team” go to the scene and work closely with the lo­cal hazmat team to as­sess the sit­u­a­tion and to han­dle the im­me­di­ate cleanup oper­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to Ap­per­son.

That in­volves vac­u­um­ing the pooled or stand­ing re­leased oil. In ad­di­tion to seep­ing into the ground near the crash site, oil ran into a road­side ditch stretch­ing in front of the three af­fected prop­er­ties and go­ing through drain­ing pipes be­neath their drive­ways.

Yonko noted, “My well is about four feet away from the ditch.”

“All of the pooled liq­uid has been re­cov­ered,” Ap­per­son re­ported.

A li­censed con­trac­tor re­moves and dis­poses of the re­cov­ered oil, he said.

Also dur­ing the early stages, ab­sorbent pads are placed on vis­i­bly af­fected ground to soak up the oil, ac­cord­ing to Ap­per­son.

The ini­tial emer­gency cleanup is then fol­lowed by well-test­ing and the ex­ca­va­tion of con­tam­i­nated soil, he re­ported.

Ap­per­son re­ported that the MDE’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter is on­go­ing.

Mar­sha Ad­kins said she has a num­ber of con­cerns, which came to her grad­u­ally in the wake of the crash.

“I thought about our well, No. 1,” she said, not­ing that the smell of oil was pun­gent at first but has dis­si­pated to a faint odor.

Ac­cord­ing to Ad­kins, one of their boys de­vel­oped a rash and com­plained of headaches af­ter the crash.

“Then you start think­ing like a mom. What ef­fect will it have on our health, breath­ing in the odor of oil? What about the clothes in our clos­ets with that oil smell? What about my laun­dry? Should I even wash it here?” she said, ex­plain­ing that she wears scrubs at her job at Union Hos­pi­tal in Elk­ton.

The ac­ci­dent oc­curred about 5 p.m. on June 7 when Elk­ton-area res­i­dent Ben­jamin Price, 35, who is a Lorco em­ployee, lost con­trol of his fuel truck as he was trav­el­ing in the north­bound lane of Blue Ball Road of Elk­ton.

“The fuel truck went off the right side of the road into ditch. When the driver tried to steer the truck back onto the road­way, the ve­hi­cle over­turned and came to rest on the driver’s side of the ve­hi­cle,” Capt. Stephen Brown­hill of the Ce­cil County Sher­iff’s Of­fice ex­plained.

An am­bu­lance took Price to Union Hos­pi­tal in Elk­ton, ac­cord­ing to emer­gency work­ers on the scene.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Chuck Ad­kins stands be­hind his wife, Mar­sha, who is seated on a well cap in the front yard of their Elk­ton-area home — six days af­ter the fuel truck crash. Be­hind them is the ex­ca­va­tion site. In front of them is some of the bot­tled water their fam­ily will be us­ing un­til health of­fi­cials can de­ter­mine if their well has been con­tam­i­nated by oil.

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