Too often rubble landfill operators have scoffed at state environmental laws with little fear of punishment by the state Department of the Environment, says Delegate Marsha G. Perry, D-Crofton.
That would change under legislation Perry, whose 33rd District contains two controversial rubble landfills, has proposed in the General Assembly.
Under Perry's bill, landfill owners would lose their operating licenses if they violate environmental laws and they would be barred from receiving a new license for at least five years. The bill also would establish stiffer criminal penalties -- up to $25,000 in fines and two years in jail -- for landfill operators and waste haulers guilty of illegal dumping.
Many of Perry's constituents who live next door to the Al/Ray Super Concrete Rubble Landfill in Lothian and a Crofton rubble fill operated by Cunningham Excavation Inc. have complained for years that out-of-state waste haulers have dumped more than construction debris and fill dirt at those sites.
Operators at both sites have been cited for violations of their state permits. But both landfills continued operating until county inspectors ordered them to shut down last fall for zoning violations. The Department of the Environment has never confirmed any illegal dumping at those sites.
"A permit should be yanked as soon as it's violated," Perry said. "Instead, it's 'Oh, there were violations, but they have been corrected.'
"This is saying, immediately revoke their permit; maybe that will get their attention."
This is the second bill Perry has introduced targeting rubble landfills. Perry introduced a bill last week thatwould require rubble fill owners to install plastic liners and otherground water safeguards before accepting any debris.
Department of the Environment spokesman Michael Sullivan said the agency has not yet taken a position on either the penalty or the liner bills.
ButSullivan said penalties already exist for permit violations. "The general policy of the department is one of escalating enforcement," he said.
The department can issue citations ordering violations be corrected, Sullivan said. If that doesn't work, the department can assess civil penalties, he said.
Sullivan said the department "has a responsibility to make sure the counties have adequate capacity for rubble . . . If we have someone violate a permit one time, we would rather ask them to correct it than to shut them down."
By way of example, Sullivan said the department is suing to shut down the Norris-Taylor rubble landfill on the Eastern Shore. The owner ignored an agreement with the state to clean up polluted ponds on the Talbot County site and to install monitoring wells, he said.
If hazardous wastes are involved, then the department also can press criminal charges, the spokesman said.
"I have a feeling (Perry's bill) is just tryingto make the penalties happen quicker," Sullivan said. "And that's probably a result of the problems in Anne Arundel County."
The County Council passed legislation last spring giving county inspectors more authority to monitor rubble landfills.
But, Perry said, "We can't afford to have on-site inspectors 24-hours a day. We can't afford achemical analysis of every load that comes in . . . so once it's in there, we don't know until it affects the water. Hopefully, by increasing our penalties, we'll discourage these trucks coming from other states unless they are absolutely sure they have a clean load."