A Lothian rubble landfill that was shut down temporarily last month for taking medical waste threatens the wells of nearby homes, a geologist's study shows.
State regulators were "negligent" when they gave Charles F. Meyer & Sons Inc. permission to operate the Al-Ray Super Concrete Rubble Landfill on Sands Road in 1985, said Gustav E. Jackson, a hydrogeologist hired by nearby residents.
The 154-acre former gravel pit, which is used to dispose of construction debris, lacks a protective bottom to prevent pollutants from filtering down to ground water supplies, said Jackson, a part-time geology professor at the University of Maryland at College Park.
The rubble fill should never have been allowed to open, he said.
"I think it was just negligence on the part of the state," Jackson said.
"The state chose to blatantly ignore those geological formations in approving (the Sands Road operation)."
Barry Schmidt, acting administrator of solid waste programs for the Department of the Environment, defended the state permit, saying regulations do not require a protective liner for rubble landfills.
Municipal landfills, which accept a wider range of trash, are required to have liners and collections systems to capture polluted rain waters, or leachate, Schmidt said. Rubble fills only accept limited construction debris.
Schmidt said the state requires monitoring wells around rubble fills because more dangerous refuse could be improperly dumped there.
Jackson, who monitored water pollution for the state Department of Natural Resources in the 1970s, was critical of the lack of artificial liners for rubble fills. "You must have some barrier, natural or artificial, to prevent leachate from filtering down."
A report prepared by an Al-Ray consultant when the owner was applying for operating permits shows clay deposits beneath the rubble fill do not provide a complete barrier, Jackson said.
Gaps in the clay layer allow rain water polluted by the rubble to filter down to the Nanjemoy aquifer, from which many of the immediate neighbors draw their drinking water, said Jackson.
"My suggestion would be to just scrape up everything and put plastic rubble liner in there," said Jackson, a Shady Side resident who lives within 10 miles of Al-Ray.
Jackson also has suggested a thorough examination of area drinking wells for contamination and an investigation of recurring illnesses in the community.
Several Lothian residents testified at a Dec. 5 public hearing about horrible odors wafting from the landfill, causing nausea and dizziness.
Residents also expressed fears the medical wastes discovered on Nov. 15 were not the first hazardous materials dumped there.
As a result, Administrative Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox has ordered Al-Ray officials to take steps to permanently close the landfill. He also has directed that the state or Al-Ray conduct soil borings to determine the landfill's contents.
"We've been asking for those soil borings forever and he (John Lawther, chief of the state hazardous and solid waste division) has always insisted it's a bad idea," said state Delegate Marsha G. Perry, D-Crofton.