Engineers Say Lothian Landfill Safe

Delegate Disagrees

February 22, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

A Glen Burnie engineering firm has given a Lothian rubble landfill aclean bill of health.

But state Delegate Marsha Perry, D-Crofton,and neighbors say they still don't believe the Al/Ray Super ConcreteRubble Landfill is safe.

"Read the report -- it says they came up with old tires and refrigerators and all kinds of stuff that's not supposed to be in there," Perry said. "The residents are upset -- accusations and rumors . . . are flying fast and furious."

Al/Ray attorney James P. Nolan disputed Perry's charges.

"Ms. Perry doesn't take the time to get her information correct before she goes and gets quoted in the paper," Nolan said. "It came up clean as a whistle. Nothing improper was found."

Test trenches dug by Marshall Engineering Associates, a Glen Burnie engineering firm, found nothing except dirt, tree stumps and otherdebris, which can be legally dumped at a rubble fill, said John Peacock, chief of environmental enforcement for the county Department of Inspections and Permits. Hired by Al/Ray, the Marshall company also is preparing the rubble landfill's closure plan.

The 24 trenches were about 30 feet long, 5 feet wide and 20 feet deep, Peacock said. Marshall employees inspected the trenches as well as the trash removed from the ground, he said. A county inspector monitored the digging, he said.

Amid construction debris and yard wastes, Marshall employees found whole tires, plastic wrap, packaging foam, "motor engine scrap," "a shredded mattress" and "scrap refrigerator," the firm's Jan. 29 report said. They also found an abundance of "cloth rags," flattened metal drums and hot water tanks, the report showed.

Al/Ray's state permit allows old appliances and tires if they are handled properly, Nolan said. Refrigerators, for instance, have to have all oils and gases removed, he said.

"Unfortunately, a lot of people fancy themselves experts and they aren't," Nolan said. "It's complicated stuff. We know all about it, and the inspectors know all about it. But the public doesn't."

A county hearing officer had ordered soil borings at the 154-acre Sands Road site in December to allay neighbors' fears that trash, and even medical wastes, are improperly buried there.But Perry said the Department of the Environment sent a letter to the county arguing that the soil borings would be environmentally unsafe.

Residents, many of whom have shallow wells, believed the tests ordered at the landfill would have included a comprehensive analysis of ground water, Perry said.

Instead of soil borings, which Perry said would have allowed ground water tests, Marshall dug trenches with a backhoe.

A boring drill may have been unable to penetrate to the bottom of the landfill if it hit a chunk of concrete or other construction debris, Peacock said.

Perry said she wants residents to meet next week with officials from Al/Ray, the state Department of theEnvironment and the county Department of Inspections and Permits to resolve any misunderstandings.

Paul Scott, who lives opposite the site on Sands Road, said the landfill's neighbors are angry because neither they or an environmental consultant they hired were allowed onthe site during the test dig.

Peacock said his office has received 10 letters from residents complaining that Al/Ray has violated the December order to close. But, he said, inspectors have found no evidence of violations.

Neighbors have complained for years to the state about the Al/Ray operation -- about trash blowing off the site and trucks dumping throughout the night. But the state has reacted slowlyto their complaints, residents said.

Perry, who says the state has not been aggressive enough with rubble-fill operators, has introduced two bills that would require new environmental safeguards at rubble landfills. Her bills go before the House Environmental Matters Committee March 7.

Resident concerns reached the County Council last spring. The council gave the Department of Inspections and Permits thepower to regulate rubble fills through zoning.

Hearing Officer Robert Wilcox ordered Al/Ray, owned by Charles F. Meyer & Son Inc., permanently closed Dec. 5 because operators had piled more debris on thesite than their license allowed. Peacock said a closure plan is currently being reviewed by state and county agencies.

Al/Ray also wastemporarily shut down in November after a Prince George's County waste hauler dumped medical wastes there. A state investigation is stillpending.

"Citizens in that area remain skeptical because of theirexperiences before the county began inspections last year," Peacock said. "Nothing short of that site closing down is going to satisfy them. It's our job now to restore their confidence in government."

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