The discovery of bloody medical waste at the Al-Ray rubble landfill in Lothian last week provided the county with a convenient excuse to slap a stop-work order on dumping, but it may be a second, technical charge that ultimately closes down the rubble fill.
The county issued a temporary emergency stop-work order against Al-Ray Thursday after a zoning officer discovered bloody syringes, hospital gowns, casts and other assorted medical wastes mixed in with a truckload of rubble during a routine inspection Wednesday.
The stop-work order, which Al-Ray agreed to comply with on Friday, forbids the operator of the 7-year-old rubble landfill from accepting any waste at the site until an administrative hearing before the county's zoning hearings officer in early December.
But even before the medical wastes -- considered a form of hazardous waste -- were discovered, the county had been working on another charge, saying that Al Ray had exceeded its permit by building mounds "steeper and higher than permitted over a substantial portion of their property."
"What they've done is like if you were permitted to fill only two buckets with sand and you fill them so the sand comes up over the top of both of them," said Assistant County Attorney Jamie Baer, who filed a two-part motion against Al-Ray Friday.
"We are asking for you to get rid of the sand that's overflowing, and they may not have the capacity in the buckets to handle it. They may have to actually take rubble out of the fill and take it somewhere else; it's a substantial amount."
Attorney James Nolan, representing Al/Ray owner Samuel F. Meyer, said he doesn't "think the county's claims are accurate from an engineering standpoint."
He said the presence of medical waste at the landfill was entirely the fault of Eastern Trans-Waste, a hauling firm based in Prince George's County.
Lothian residents, who have been complaining to the county for over five years about practices at the Al/Ray Rubble Landfill, say their worst suspicions were confirmed by the discovery of the bloody medical wastes.
"We have been after him for five years on this," said Paul Scott, president of Concerned Citizens for a Clean and Safe Environment. The group is one of two civic associations that have formed in Lothian to lobby for tighter controls and inspections at Al/Ray. "I just hope this is going to sink his ship once and for all, but I won't really feel vindicated until Sam Meyer is out of there for good."
Scott called on the state to investigate the rubble company thoroughly and to look for other hazardous wastes.
Nolan said allegations of a pattern of illegal dumping are unfounded. He said Wednesday's incident was the first time any illegal wastes were ever received at the site.
"It's like the way they reacted to the fires," Scott said. "They said lightning struck it. We're not stupid."
County firefighters have responded to two underground fires at Al/Ray during the past month.