The Baltimore County attorney, saying the operator of a burning stump dump near Granite had "thumbed his nose" at county regulations, will ask for a court order to shut him down and will file criminal charges against him, alleging that he ignored fire safety measures.
Attorney H. Emslie Parks said he would ask a Circuit Court judge today or tomorrow for an injunction to close Patapsco Valley Tree Farm in the 8700 block of Dogwood Road because its owner, James F. Jett, was dumping up to 60 truckloads of debris a day on his site -- some of it on the same piles where stumps have been burning.
"In effect, he's been adding fuel to the fire," said Mr. Parks.
Mr. Parks said he also would charge Mr. Jett in District Court with violating state fire codes that require such operations to comply with measures spelled out by county fire officials.
If found guilty, Mr. Jett could face fines and jail. For each day the offense occurred, he could be sentenced to 10 days in jail and $100 in fines, according to a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office.
"We're delighted, simply delighted," Rosalyn Roddy, one of the stump dump's most vocal opponents, said of the county's decision.
Thomas DeMay, president of the Greater Patapsco Community Association, said neighbors had noticed that in recent weeks the government had been more vigilant about Mr. Jett's operation. State police have been inspecting trucks along Dogwood Road, and more county fire and environmental officials have visited the site each day.
"I hope that people see this as a warning to other operations that the county is not going to tolerate this kind of operation anymore," said Mr. DeMay.
Mr. Jett's stump dump has been burning since Feb. 2, but he won county approval three weeks after the fire was discovered to continue accepting stumps, with certain conditions.
He was required to grind the stumps into mulch and remove the mulch or any other debris within 24 hours of accepting it.
He was also required to keep the new material at least 100 feet from the fire scene.
Mr. Parks said Mr. Jett had failed to meet those requirements.
Rather, he has accepted up to 60 dump trucks of debris each day, enough to build piles of wood and dirt that are as big as a football field and 12 to 18 feet high in most places, Mr. Parks said.
He also has failed to keep open, as required, an access road that allows firefighters to reach the sides and rear of the smoldering mountain of stumps, Mr. Parks said. That road has been blocked with stumps, the attorney said.
"At this point, it seems Mr. Jett has just thumbed his nose at the county," Mr. Parks said.
Mr. Jett's attorney, Michael Tanczyn, said that his client had cooperated fully with county fire officials since Feb. 2, had not dumped material on the fire scene and had continued to limit the number of trucks each day.
"If Mr. Parks feels he has cause to go to court, he certainly knows where the courthouse door is," he said. "But anything they have ever asked for we have given them. I have difficulty understanding why this has occurred."
He said the reported figure of 60 trucks a day was an exaggeration, but he acknowledged that business picked up for three days when a stump dump in Anne Arundel County was recently forced to close.
"The most we ever had on one day was 46," he said.
Mr. Jett, who has operated the stump dump and tree farm since 1981, has filed an appeal with the county Board of Appeals contesting the conditions spelled out in a new county permit requiring that he post a $6.6 million bond to continue operating.
County officials say the bond is intended to cover cleanup costs if Mr. Jett goes bankrupt.
Mr. Tanczyn said the appeal was intended to preserve Mr. Jett's rights until the county responded to questions he raised on a number of issues, including the basis for the amount of the bond.
Battalion Chief Ralph Nelson of the county Fire Department predicted yesterday that the fire would not burn itself out until late next month or early July.
"The actual burning is down to a very small area, but because of the weather conditions the odor is really out there," he said.
Neighbors who have been fighting Mr. Jett's operation for more than 10 years say it has not become any easier to live with smoke-filled back yards and soot-covered cars.
Mrs. Roddy said the fire continued to dictate her lifestyle and that of her neighbors, forcing them to keep their windows closed on mild days and discouraging residents from taking walks and staying outside longer than necessary.
"You want to open your windows on these beautiful spring days, but you can't," she said.
"The smoke permeates everything around here."