Monday, January 15, 2018
Ourisman acquires Bethesda industrial site
Longtime readers will recall that this property is the one through which I discovered an underground fuel spill eleven years ago, which had been covered up by Montgomery County and the State of Maryland. The previous property owner had received clearance to operate the sports facility from the Maryland Department of the Environment, under the provision that they would not disturb the soil or utilize the contaminated groundwater under the building.
Since the fuel contained MTBE, an additive that moves far and fast through soil, and has contaminated water supplies nationwide, part of my investigation involved the MDE's handling of the secret spill. MDE documents state no cleanup action being taken at 5420, but the department refused to confirm or deny that when pressed repeatedly by me in 2007 and 2008. MDE also refused to say if it had investigated any of the adjacent properties for evidence of the "free product" that soil samples at 5420 revealed. That "free product" was found to contain elevated amounts of methyl-t-butyl-ether (MTBE), diesel range total petroleum hydrocarbons, tetrachloroethene (PCE), and naphthalene.
All very healthy stuff, right? MDE thought so, apparently, because they could provide no evidence of any further investigation on their part to find out how far this material had gone on adjoining properties.
Fast forward three years after MDE's stonewalling to 2011, when my investigation was completely vindicated during the Little Falls Place scandal. Soil tests on the Hoyt/BETCO plant property confirmed what I had warned about years earlier - MTBE had indeed leached downhill to the BETCO site. Clearly, it also wound up going into the Willett Branch and Little Falls watershed, if you know anything about how MTBE moves once it is free in soil.
The Montgomery County Council, National Capital Planning Commission, and Montgomery County Planning Board all shared MDE's nonchalant attitude about these contaminants. All voted to approve the Little Falls Place townhome development on the BETCO site, following soil remediation.
Assuming an automotive use for the 5420 Butler site after this transaction, they will probably receive a "no further requirements" determination from MDE, as the previous tenant did.