A Lothian rubble fill will remain temporarily closed until the county and state approve a plan to shut it down permanently in 1991, an Anne Arundel County hearing officer said yesterday.
Zoning Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox has ordered the owner of the Al-Ray Super Concrete Rubble Fill on Sands Road to prepare a closure plan in cooperation with the county Department of Inspections and Permits.
Before any dumping resumes, Wilcox said the state Department of the Environment, which regulates landfills and rubble fills, must approve the plan as well.
Wilcox also ordered a number of other measures to give neighboring residents "peace of mind" about the rubble fill, which was first shut down Nov. 15 after county inspectors discovered medical waste there. County inspectors also said Al-Ray officials had filled portions of the dump beyond capacity.
Both actions would violate the company's 1983 special zoning exception, prompting yesterday's hearing in Annapolis.
Al-Ray attorney James P. Nolan asked that owner Charles F. "Sam" Meyer be allowed to keep the rubble fill open and accept additional construction debris while planning for its permanent closure.
"We need the ability to pay the bills, to pay the employees by filling," Nolan said.
Nolan said the temporary closing will require Meyer to lay off employees just before Christmas and may prevent him from installing and maintaining required erosion controls.
But Wilcox responded sternly.
"I'm not going to buy this stuff about Christmas coming and employees," Wilcox said. "I want it understood that you are in this position today because you put yourself in this position."
During five hours of testimony, attorneys representing both the county and Al-Ray agreed that the company had piled construction debris and other rubble higher than allowed on the western third of the 70-acre property -- as much as 15 feet higher at some points.
Wilcox asked Meyer directly how that occurred.
"We just got caught in bad weather," Meyer said. "It was easier to get to that area and we kept doing it."
"So you knew you were doing it?" Wilcox asked.
"Yep," Meyer answered.
Wilcox then asked, "When did this bad weather start? This didn't happen overnight. Didn't it bother you?"
Meyer responded, "No, it didn't."
Nolan said Al-Ray employees began piling the material up two years ago.
Raymond Riggon, a supervisor in the Department of Inspections and Permits, said the county first learned of potential problems after the County Council gave his agency power to regulate rubble fills last spring.
Although parts of the dump are over-filled, no one could say if the overall site exceeded its capacity of 2.8 million cubic yards. At the request of Jamie Baer, senior assistant county attorney, Wilcox has ordered Al-Ray to report in the proposed plan the volume of rubble already dumped.
Even if the dump has exceeded capacity, Meyer may be allowed to accept additional rubble from waste haulers to fill in large holes in the site. If left empty, those holes would collect water and could pollute area drinking wells, Al-Ray and county attorneys agreed.
Baer said Al-Ray theoretically could transfer excess rubble from the western third, but that would create erosion problems and could expose hazardous wastes buried on site. Asbestos, a carcinogen dangerous when airborne, can be legally dumped at rubble fills.
Wilcox said he recognizes "there might be problems if you rob Peter on the western perimeter to pay Paul in the hole. But why should it be rubble used to fill that hole, allowing them to exceed their limits. Why not just throw dirt on it and be done with it?"
Baer said the county would not object.
To allay residents' fear that Al-Ray has illegally accepted medical and toxic wastes in the past, Wilcox said he would order the county Department of Planning and Zoning to request that soil borings be conducted by the state Department of the Environment. The borings would show what is buried in the rubble fill.
If the Department of the Environment refused, then he would require Al-Ray officials to pay for an independent contractor to perform the boring tests.
Wilcox said if Al-Ray reopens, he wants the county to hire a full-time inspector to monitor everything dumped at the rubble fill. Al-Ray officials would repay the county for the inspector's salary, he said.