One of the nation's largest trash haulers broke ranks with the solidwaste industry yesterday to support environmental safeguards in rubble landfills.
"Many materials get into rubble fills that leach into the ground water as rain percolates through (the soil)," said Kenneth Wishnick, vice president of Browning-Ferris Industries Atlantic Region. "Let me put it this way, no one would want to stick a straw down to the bottom of a rubble landfill and drink the water."
Wishnick was the only industry official to support a bill that would require liners beneath rubble fills. The measure is one of two introduced by Delegate Marsha G. Perry, D-Crofton, to regulate primitive landfills that can accept tree stumps and construction debris.
The second bill would establish criminal penalties -- up to $25,000 infines and two years in jail -- for landfill operators and waste haulers guilty of illegal dumping. Both bills went before the House Environmental Matters Committee yesterday.
The Maryland-Delaware Solid Waste Association, the Association of Builders and Contractors and a half-dozen rubble fill owners said that requiring liners would eliminate rubble fills as alternatives to the more expensive municipal and hazardous waste landfills, in which sophisticated safeguards are already required. The liners will drive up the cost of disposing of rubble, and rubble will begin to take up limited space in the state's 60 municipal landfills, they said.
They estimated the liner bill wouldraise waste disposal costs to the state, residents and industry by $50 million to $110 million.
"It is overly regulatory as far as theliners," said Bill Pitcher, an Annapolis lawyer representing the solid waste association. "Obviously, these liners will drive rubble landfills out of existence. The bill goes too far."
Wishnick, who saidhis company will not build a landfill withouta liner, said the industry's cost estimates are overblown. Because many other states alreadyrequire liners in rubble landfills, landfill fees are artificially lower in Maryland, he said.
"There ain't no way you're going to getinto that kind of money ($51 million)," he said. "As long as the cost is less than sanitary landfills, rubble fills are going to continueto operate."
In any case, Wishnick said, "It's a lot cheaper to install a liner than to have to go back and clean up the site years later."
Dozens of Harford and Anne Arundel County residents, who live adjacent to rubble fills, attended the hearing to support Perry's bills.
"Most of us have looked at these holes in the ground as a place to put innocuous construction debris," Perry said. "But the neighbors don't see a whole lot of difference between what they put on thecurbside to go into the municipal landfill and what's going into a rubble landfill."
Plastic wrap, asbestos, treated wood, old refrigerators, paint cans and other unexpected debris were found recently inthe Al-Ray Super Concrete Rubble Landfill in Lothian, she said.
The state Department of the Environment supports the criminal penalties but has not taken a stand on the liner bill, said John Chlada, acting deputy director of hazardous and solid waste management.
"The liner is not the end-all and be-all," Chlada said. "They do leak and they can be damaged."