Neighbors Of Lothian Rubble Fill Question Recent Fires Fears Of Toxic Waste Dumping Incite Calls To Test Soil And Water

November 13, 1990|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

County firefighters have responded to two underground fires at a Lothian rubble landfill during the past three weeks, heightening concerns among residents about the landfill's contents.

"Why is it burning if it's just rubble?" asked state Delegate Marsha G.

Perry, D-Crofton, who said she has heard from a number of troubled residents. "If it's a simple brush fire, why can't the fire department put it out?"

Perry and neighboring residents said they fear toxic chemicals illegally dumped in the Al/Ray Concrete Corp. Rubble Landfill may be fueling the underground fires.

James P. Nolan, attorney for owner Charles S. "Sam" Meyer, said the residents' concerns are unfounded.

"Nothing illegal has or ever will be dumped in there," Nolan said. "The rubble fill has never been shut down for any illegal activity."

The state Department of the Environment and the county Department of Inspections and Permits have been examining trucks entering the landfill daily since the County Council passed strict temporary restrictions in April, Nolan said. They have found no violations of Al/Ray's zoning or refuse-disposal permit, the attorney said.

Lt. Gary Sheckells, a fire department spokesman, said six engines, two tankers and a ladder truck were used to fight a Nov. 4 blaze at the landfill, in the 4900 block of Sands Road.

Firefighters arrived at 9:28 p.m. and tried to extinguish the flames with water, Sheckells said.

"They found it was burning down into the ground to the point that they couldn't get enough water to it," Sheckells said.

Sheckells said fire officials instructed Al/Ray managers to bulldoze the fire and smother the flames with dirt. He said workers had begun the process when firefighters left the scene at 11:12 p.m.

Lightning ignited a blaze at the 7-year-old rubble dump two weeks earlier. Al/Ray employees and firefighters quickly extinguished that blaze, Nolan said.

Although Nolan said both fires were quickly put out, residents have reported that the fire continued through last week, Delegate Perry said.

Lieutenant Sheckells said he did not know if the fires were still burning.

The fires have heightened concern among two Lothian resident groups -- Concerned Citizens for a Clean and Safe Environment and the United Residents' Association -- opposing continued operation of the Al/Ray rubble dump.

During hearings before state permitting agencies and the County Council, members of those groups have complained about trucks entering and leaving the site during the night. They also have said they fear the landfill is accepting toxic wastes illegally.

Last month, residents opposed Al/Ray's application to the state Department of Natural Resources to renew a water discharge permit, which expires on Feb. 1, 1991. The state requires the discharge permit because rubble dumps, unlike municipal landfills, are not lined. Without a liner, rain water can carry pollutants into drinking wells and waterways.

URA president Cathy Tornabene said yesterday that residents want the soil and water around the site tested for toxic chemicals. Even such legally acceptable waste as spray insulation and pressure-treated lumber contain toxic chemicals that might leach into the ground, she said.

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