James McKinney, representing the Baltimore County executive, assured angry neighbors of Granite's burning stump dump that he knew their problems with the facility are detailed in a file "this thick," indicating about 4 inches with his fingers.
Kathleen Skullney, a leader in the fight against the dump, responded by plunking down in front of McKinney a tote bag that bulged more than a foot thick with documents.
"This is ours," Skullney said.
XTC Almost 200 residents, mostly members of the Greater Patapsco Community Association, laughed and cheered. They gathered last night at the Granite Presbyterian Church in the southwestern county to confront the new government of County Executive Roger B. Hayden with complaints about the stump dump that they say have gone unheeded for years.
Piles of tree stumps at the Patapsco Valley Tree Farm, owned by James Jett, have been burning since Feb 2. The smell of smoke was in the air in the church last night.
A fire expert from Missouri was due to begin spraying chemical foam around the burning stump piles today in an effort to extinguish the fire. McKinney, who is Hayden's executive assistant, said the spraying job could take 10 days and cost the county $23,000.
McKinney said the county's lawyers were looking into whether Jett would be liable to pay some of the cost of putting out the fire.
Already, the county has been spending roughly $10,000 a day on the fire. And Jett has told the county he has no more money to pay contractors to dig a trench that would separate the burning wood from the remaining piles, McKinney said.
"We're in a position where we're at wits' end with this thing," McKinney said. "We either let it burn out or try whatever comes down the pike."
In reply to neighbors' fears that the foam might introduce a new environmental hazard, county Waste Management Director Eugene Siewierski said the county would dig sediment pits around the affected area and monitor the air and water runoff.
People in Granite have complained about the 220-acre Jett farm for about four years, particularly the truck traffic bringing loads of tree stumps and debris from construction sites along the narrow rural roads to the dump site on Dogwood Road.
Residents said that as early as last September, they began to notice that parts of the dump were smoldering. They said they mentioned this at a hearing last November on Jett's application for a permit that would allow him to continue his operation.
Jett needed the permit to comply with a county law enacted in 1989 to regulate facilities like his. Jett and other such operations were allowed to continue in business while applying for the permit, which is still under review by the county.
Fire Battalion Chief Roy Kemmer said last night that when the fire is out, Jett cannot reopen the business until he follows recommendations the fire department made in January. Kemmer said these included clearing buried stream beds, ensuring an adequate water supply and lowering stump piles -- some of which rise 50 feet or more -- to 12 feet.