The Environmental Protection Agency says it found low levels of dioxin at a former wood treatment plant in St. Mary's County in Southern Maryland.

Federal officials say the chemical found at the 10-acre site is less toxic than the dioxins that forced the government to relocate the entire town of Times Beach, Mo.

"We don't have a Times Beach here. We don't have the same kind of hazard," said Jerry Heston, site coordinator for the EPA. "Not that it's something that you want to find."

Results of further sampling at the site and surrounding area are to be released today.

In 1980, the state Health Department told the now-defunct Southern Maryland Wood Treating Corp. to take toxic chemicals out of a lagoon and spray them on the soil with sewage sludge.

Officials thought the bacteria in the sludge would destroy the toxic chemicals. But the toxic material polluted the ground water and a stream that runs into the Potomac River.

Jack Witten, president of a local environmental group, condemned the decision to take the toxic chemical out of a contained area and spread it over a field.

"I think it's ridiculous because obviously they didn't really know what the chemical was," Witten said. "What you try and do is contain that stuff, not broadcast it."