By Charles R. Wolpoff and M. Jane Taylor
EDGEMERE, Md. – As the weather warms, Christine Gangi wonders whether silver dust will again blow into her yard and ruin her summer.
Gangi and her family could not use their pool for the second half of last summer because the dust saturated the water, she said. “Our little 8-year-old would say she wants to go swimming. I would say, `I’m sorry, you can’t go in the pool,’ ” she said.
Gangi, a former landscaper, said the dust is just one of the difficulties with having industrial plants as neighbors. About 50 industrial manufacturers are located within a five-mile radius.
Some of their chemical releases may be harmful in large doses, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Others are just bothersome. Officials say the silver dust may fit into the latter category.
The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene last summer analyzed the dust in Gangi’s pool. According to Quentin Banks, spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment, the analysis indicated some of the substance appeared to be kish.
Kish is normally produced during hot metal operations, said Michael Ioff, an EPA regional specialist on iron and steel. “It looks like a black silver,” he said.
Ioff said studies continue to be conducted about its harmfulness. The EPA does not now consider it harmful. It is “more like a nuisance,” he said. “It’s not small enough to penetrate deeply into the lung.”
But the potential for harm is what concerns some residents of Sparrows Point and Edgemere.
Debbie Barkley, one of Ganzi’s neighbors and a pool owner, said the dust appears all year round. She said it is more noticeable in summer because people are outside more.
Barkley said she sometimes sees the dust blowing into her yard in the early morning. “Right before the daylight, you get this rainy effect of silver ash floating down onto everything. It looks like tin foil shredded. It reflects the moonlight.”
Both Barkley and Ganzi say they need to use their pools to help rehabilitate injuries. “When the kish hits the pool, it’s a whole day cleaning it,” said Barkley, a former payroll worker at BGE.
She said last summer when she and her husband lifted a pool tarp, the material flew into her face.
“I ingested a whole face full of this,” she said. “I was solid silver from my neck up.”
Louis DePazzo, a Baltimore County councilman, called the dust an intrusion into the residents’ quality of life. He said he met with Bethlehem Steel Corp. representatives about the problem, but said they told him they did not know where the dust was coming from. Bethlehem’s facilities sit about a mile from the neighborhood.
“I have no evidence that the material they say is kish is kish,” said Joseph Mendelson, supervisor of environmental control for Bethlehem Steel.
He added, “I cannot help what unknowledgeable people might say.”
State officials could not pinpoint the source of the silver dust in Edgemere, said Denise Ferguson-Southard, counsel to MDE.
Three companies nearby engage in activity that could result in kish, Banks said. They are Bethlehem Steel; Maryland Pig Services, L.P., which produces steel ingots; and C.J. Langenfelder & Sons Inc., which runs a scrap steel operation.
Banks said the MDE required all three companies to take several actions in recent years to reduce the potential for kish emissions.
Tom Baldwin, a spokesman for Bethlehem Steel, said the company has been “very concerned and responsive to our residents in the Edgemere area.” Baldwin said the company has an environmental hot line and if residents think there is a problem, “we recommend that they call that number.” -30-