Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (October 5, 1999) – In keeping with Governor Parris N. Glendening’s effort to keep Marylanders informed, prepared and protected in the Year 2000, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has moved to ensure that its key permitting, compliance, enforcement and emergency response functions are ready for Y2K.

More than 95 percent of MDE’s critical automated systems, which support permitting, compliance, enforcement and environmental data analysis activities, are prepared for the Year 2000, and will be 100 percent Y2K ready by the end of this month.

In addition, the department has surveyed for Y2K preparedness more than 1,700 regulated facilities, including water supply plants, waste water treatment plants, industrial facilities, landfills, large oil terminals, major source of air emissions, and hazardous waste treatment or processing facilities. Based upon responses from the survey, the facilities have taken the Y2K problem seriously and have acted to diminish the impact on the citizens of Maryland.

To ensure the ability of the team to respond to emergencies, MDE also has conducted Y2K tests of critical equipment, including digital photo-ionization detectors, which are used to detect explosive vapors when responding to hazardous chemical accidents. For example, during the October 1998 Condea Vista fire and explosion, which resulted in a release of hydrochloric acid, MDE’s emergency response team used such a detector to verify that an evacuation of Wagner’s Point in Baltimore City was not needed.

Testing also was conducted on hand-held digital Global Positioning System units used to identify the precise locations of chemical or oil spills. Both of these equipment units are crucial in protecting the public from the consequences of environmental mishaps.

MDE also has taken extra measures to maintain constant contact with staff that would respond to emergencies. In addition to regular telephones, MDE staff responders have cellular phones, pagers and two-way radios with access to police frequencies. In the extremely unlikely scenario of a total loss of communications, couriers will be on duty over the millennium weekend to hand deliver messages to key MDE personnel.

MDE will staff a 24-hour emergency response center for the millennium weekend to coordinate and respond to any environmental emergencies. The MDE center will coordinate its activities with the State’s Y2K Coordination Center and the Maryland Emergency Management Agency’s State Emergency Operations Center.