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Watchdog group cites tannery

September 11, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

WILLIAMSPORT - Garden State Tanning legally dumps more toxic chemicals directly into the Potomac River than any other company in Maryland, a state environmental watchdog group alleged Thursday.

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The Maryland Public Interest Research Group said that the automotive leather manufacturer legally released 313,430 pounds of toxic chemicals into the river between 1992 and 1996.

Most of the material came from ammonia and nitrate compounds, said MaryPIRG Campaign Director Michael Pace.

MaryPIRG got its information from reports that companies are required to file with the Environmental Protection Agency, Pace said.

The critical report came less than a month after Garden State Tanning was fined $126,000 for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act.

In August, the Maryland Department of Environment and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cited Garden State for allegedly:

- Releasing more than permitted levels of pollutants into the Conococheague Creek and the Potomac River occasionally since 1995.

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- Making unauthorized discharges of waste water into the creek.

- Improperly testing waste water discharged from the plant.

- Failing to fix a waste water diffuser.

Garden State has been discussing those findings with the government, but could not comment further, said Glenn D. Thornley, vice president for operations at the Clear Spring Road plant.

Thornley said he needed to do more research before commenting on the MaryPIRG report.

Two years ago, MaryPIRG praised Garden State Tanning for reducing its legal discharges into the Potomac River and Conococheague Creek from nearly 325,000 pounds in 1990 to 18,380 in 1994.

On Thursday, MaryPIRG singled out Garden State Tanning in an effort to generate support for reducing pollution statewide, Pace said.

"It really comes down to citizens' right to know about the chemicals being used in the community," he said.

MaryPIRG used the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory, which doesn't account for all toxic chemicals being released into the environment, he said.

There are many more chemicals than people realize being dumped into waterways used for boating, swimming and fishing, he said.

The regulations cover just 620 of the more than 72,000 chemicals on the market, he said.

Also, sewage treatment plants, medical and solid waste incinerators and the oil and gas industry aren't required to report their discharges, he said.

Garden State Tanning, with about 1,000 workers, is one of the 10 largest employers in Washington County, according to the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission's 1998 business directory.

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