Baltimore County officials will seek a court injunction, possibly as as soon as today, to halt operations at the Granite stump dump that has been on fire since February, because new logs are being piled up, some on stumps already burning, according to the county attorney.
James Jett, owner of the controversial Patapsco Valley Farms Inc. in western Baltimore County, was cited by the County Fire Department yesterday for violating the terms of the agreement under which he was continuing to operate, said County Attorney H. Emslie Parks.
Michael P. Tanczyn, Jett's attorney, denied any wrongdoing by his client, and said that new debris was placed "where the Fire Department told us to put it." He said a second wood chipper was to arrive at the site today, and the pile of logs would quickly be reduced to mulch. He said he was not notified of any new citations.
Parks contended that Jett is ignoring all the safety precautions imposed on his operations at the Dogwood Road property by allowing a "football field long" pile of new stumps 10 to 20 feet high and up to 50 feet wide. "Sixty-five trucks rolled in on one day," Parks alleged yesterday.
The Fire Department citation charges Jett with failing to maintain a 100-foot buffer between the burning area and the new stumps he is taking in, failing to leave a 20-foot wide roadway around the burning area to ease access for the fire equipment, and for allegedly adding new debris, instead of shredding new stumps into mulch as they are received.
Parks said the citation could become the basis for criminal charges, as well as for an emergency court injunction to close the stump dump operation.
"Incredibly, we have stumps being placed on the old pile where the fire is," Parks said. "I think we've given this guy [Jett] every chance in the world."
Chris Poletis, a neighbor who lives just across Wright's Mill Road from the stump pile, said that smoke has not been a problem during dry weather.
When conditions were humid last weekend, however, "the smell was pretty strong," he said.
At the height of the fire in February, smoke and odor wafted as far as eastern Baltimore city and county, 15 miles or more from the fire.
Jett has appealed the county's conditions for him to receive a permit to operate his Christmas tree farm and stump dump, including the requirement that he post a $6.6 million bond to pay for cleaning up the dump site if he were to go bankrupt.
The county notified Jett on March 29 that his permit was approved, except for the bond. Jett's appeal was filed May 2 with the county Board of Appeals, which won't schedule a hearing on the case for several months.
The dump caught fire early Feb. 2, and has burned despite all attempts of the County Fire Department to extinguish the smoky blaze. The fire is smaller now, and the piles of stumps that once towered 100 feet high have been reduced to 20 or 30 feet or less.