A year after losing a major zoning battle to block an industrial waste dump along the Baltimore city border, North County environmentalists are trying to save a tree-covered 30-acre part of the property as a buffer.
Last June, over the strong opposition of residents, the Baltimore Zoning Appeals Board granted SCM Chemicals of Hawkins Pointpermission to build a 95-acre dump.
Now, the manufacturer of white pigment is applying for a state permit to dump gypsum, bricks and "small amounts of unreactive solids,"including iron oxide, on the parcel. Company officials said they will need to open the new landfill next year when the Quarantine Road landfill across the street will be filled.
North County residents, led by Mary Rosso of the Maryland Waste Coalition, are using the permit process to try to force the company and state officials to preservethe 30-acre parcel.
"The best thing we can really do at this point is save the trees," Rosso said following a public hearing arranged by Sen. Philip Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, in Brooklyn Park Thursday night.
"SCM has got to get the permit to remain viable, and the state's not going to deny it to them after the city went along. But I think it would be foolish of them not to give us our buffer," Rosso said.
Sean Smith, SCM's environmental and materials handling departmentmanager, said the company plans to leave a 50-foot buffer around theperimeter of the dump, but the details of the permit have not been worked out yet.
He also said the company would be filling one area of the dump at a time and would allow vegetation to re-establish itself.
At the meeting, the company unveiled an artist's rendering of what the dump would look like after closure. A young couple was depicted strolling around a a green area with a border of flowers,
hedges and woods in the background. The drawing drew snickers from some skeptical North County residents.
"You're trading on entire generations of bad faith," Baltimore City Councilman Timothy Murphy, D-6, told SCM executives at the hearing. "No one in this community believes a recovered landfill will ever look like that. You'll be in Clevelandor someplace when this landfill is retired, and these people down here are going to be living with globs of gypsum and dust blowing around."
John Lawther, solid waste division chief of the Maryland Department of Environment, assured about 15 residents who attended the meeting that "if the permit is given it will be limited," but he didn't specify how.
Lawther also said he is under pressure from the stateto preserve forested land. But, he said, his agency's desire to preserve wooded areas "has to be balanced against the efficient use of the land."
SCM Chemicals, whose Baltimore plant employs 750, is the world's third-largest manufacturer of titanium dioxide, a non-toxic whitening agent used for paper, toothpaste, cosmetics, paints and plastics.
Synthetic gypsum, also known as calcium sulfate dihydrate, is a byproduct of the reaction used to make the pigment. Gypsum can beused in wall board, and SCM sells some of its byproduct to the U.S. Gypsum Co. in Baltimore, but nowhere near the "several hundred thousand tons" produced every year at the plant, said SCM spokesman Louis Kistner.
Kistner said it would take the company between 10 and 30 years to fill the 95-acre site, which SCM purchased for $9 million from the CSX Corp. in 1988.