A Lothian rubble landfill that was closed last year for accepting too much debris may be allowed to stay open another five years before closing permanently.
Residents who have battled the Al-Ray Super Concrete Landfill for years say the county's closure plan, presented yesterday, rewards the owner, Charles F. Meyer & Sons Inc., for violating county zoning laws.
County inspectors shut down the Sands Road landfill nine months ago, charging that the operators had piled too much debris on the western portion of the 154-acre site.
The landfill's special zoning exception depends on the operators complying with certain restrictions.The western bank exceeds height limitations by 12 to 14 feet.
Thesite has remained closed while owners worked with county and state officials to draft a plan to permanently close the site. County and Al-Ray officials presented the plan to County Administrative Hearing Officer Robert Wilcox yesterday. Wilcox can accept, reject or modify the plan before allowing Al-Ray to reopen.
The plan would allow Meyer & Sons to dump an additional 472,000 cubic yards of construction debris to fill in craters left in other portions of the landfill and grade the site properly. That amount exceeds the capacity allowed underits special exception by 272,000 cubic yards.
Assistant County Attorney Cheryl Boudreau said the depressions must be filled, a job that will require three to five years. Left alone, water would more easily drain through rubble, causing erosion and possibly carrying pollutants to underground water stores.
"We don't believe it's a sound environmental practice to leave the depressions," Boudreau said.
Residents, however, said the plan merely rewards Meyer & Sons for beingbad neighbors. They complained about pungent sulfur odors wafting off the site and making them ill. They said trash and dust frequently blow off the site.
Preferably, the residents said, the owners wouldbe required to close immediately. They want Meyer & Sons to be required to shift excess rubble on the western bank to fill the depressions. At the very least, the company should be required to bring in clean dirt, rather than a broad range of construction rubble, they said.
"It's inconceivable to me that someone would be permitted to bringin twice as much as he would have had he not violated the law," saidPatricia Nimmerrichter, a Prince George's County lawyer representinga Lothian neighborhood group, Concerned Citizens for a Clean-Safe Environment. "What happens if he violates the law again? Does he get toput still more debris on the site?"
John Peacock, county chief ofenvironmental enforcement, said the western bank is best left untouched. Excavating the grassy bank could create erosion problems. Or worse, residents fears that hazardous wastes have been buried on the site could prove true.
"We don't believe there is anything (toxic) inthere, but we don't have X-ray vision," Peacock said. "There's always the possibility that something is in there that would be better offleft alone."
James Nolan, a lawyer representing Meyer & Sons, called the proposal to use dirt fill "ludicrous," saying it would be economically unfeasible.
Nolan noted that the plan also requires his client to build a 2 percent slope and install a plastic-like cap overthe landfill to prevent rainwater from seeping into the rubble and carrying pollutants into the ground water. Those and other environmental controls will cost more than $1 million, he said.
Nimmerrichtersaid a rubble landfill can generate as much as $35 million in tipping fees in three to five years.
Meanwhile, County Executive Robert R. Neall is considering a "radical new approach to controlling rubblelandfills," said County Attorney Steve Beard. Beard said he expects the administration to propose stricter controls to a task force by the end of the month.
County Council President Virginia Claggett, D-West River, pressed the council to pass temporary, emergency reforms last year after she and Lothian residents grew frustrated with the state Department of the Environment's poor enforcement record.