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Fish kill brings citation

The Western Maryland Hospital Center received a citation from the Maryland Department of the Environment charging it with sprayi

The Western Maryland Hospital Center received a citation from the Maryland Department of the Environment charging it with sprayi

August 07, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Maryland Department of the Environment issued the Western Maryland Hospital Center a citation last week charging the chronic-care hospital with spraying herbicide that killed thousands of fish and crayfish in Hamilton Run, a state spokesman said Tuesday.

State Department of the Environment spokesman Rich McIntire said 2,000 to 3,000 minnows, dace and sculp were killed, along with 6,000 crayfish and four salamanders.

Hamilton Run, a tributary of Antietam Creek, runs behind the Western Maryland Hospital Center on Pennsylvania Avenue.

McIntire said employees of the Washington County Highway Department found the fish kill on July 30 and notified the Department of the Environment.

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The department gave the hospital center 10 days to respond and explain what steps it would take to prevent the fish kill from happening again.

If the center doesn't respond, McIntire said it could be fined.

N. Linn Hendershot, the center's communication director, said a maintenance employee sprayed the herbicide, Hilco-x, on July 29-30 on weeds near Hamilton Run at the hospital center's rear entrance off Northern Avenue. He said he thinks the mist accidentally landed in the stream.

"We just got too much overspray that went into the water," he said.

Hendershot said about 3,000 feet of stream were affected, from the rear entrance to just past the railroad tracks on Northern Avenue.

He disputed the number of dead fish and crayfish reported by the Department of the Environment.

"I don't want them doing my taxes," Hendershot said.

He said the dead fish numbered in the hundreds, not thousands.

"We did not beach the whale," he said.

Hendershot said the maintenance employee had been spraying the weeds so employees of the hospital center, the Washington County Health Department and a medical center on Northern Avenue could sit by the stream on their breaks.

"We tried to do them a favor by getting rid of the weeds," he said. "We were just trying to be good Samaritans, and it didn't quite work out that way."

McIntire said the contamination was quickly contained and that the water should be safe.

Hendershot said the hospital center plans to leave the weeds near the stream as they are from now on.

"We're just not going to do it anymore," he said.

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