About 300 Havre de Grace-area residents turned out last night to restate their opposition to the proposed Gravel Hill rubble landfill, whose fate is the subject of two court cases.
Much of the public hearing before officials of the Maryland
Department of the Environment, who must decide whether to issue two state permits for the project, was taken up by consultants from both sides using the technical jargon of geologists.
The bottom line of all the talk about "K factors," "conductivity of aquifers" and "leachate migration" was that the company that wants to build the landfill, Maryland Reclamation Associates of Churchville, contends it can operate the site without polluting private wells nearby or causing them to run dry.
Conversely, consultants for the opponents contend that Maryland Reclamation's studies are flawed. In addition to having concerns about drinking water quality and quantity, the opponents fear safety risks due to increased truck traffic and fear a drop in property values.
State officials said they would allow the public to comment on the permit issues for 15 days. Even if state permits were issued, department officials said, the landfill cannot be operated until the courts decide whether zoning restrictions recently imposed by Harford County prohibit the project.
One consultant for Maryland Reclamation, John Wirth, said there was "no justification" for the argument that the proposed landfill will contaminate wells or cause them to run dry. He and other consultants for the company conclude that ground water flows away from private wells.
But consultants for the opponents contended that Maryland Reclamation submitted inadequate and inaccurate data in support of state permits.
"If the Maryland Department of the Environment approves a permit based on this data, it will do a major disservice to itself and this community," said Wayne Fox, one of the opponents' consultants.
The Rev. Violet Tann, pastor of St. James A.M.E. Church, called on the state officials to "consider the word of God" when deciding whether to issue a permit for the landfill. Her church sits about 120 feet from one of the landfill's borders, she said.
The proposed 68-acre landfill would be operated on Gravel Hill Road about a half-mile west of Interstate 95. It would be for burial of old tree stumps, construction and demolition debris, and asbestos from Harford County and elsewhere. The site has been mined for sand and gravel since the 1950s, and some rubble has been buried there since the mid-1980s.
Maryland Reclamation's president, Richard D. Schafer, has sought local and state approvals for his project for more than two years. The debate came to a head last spring when the County Council passed zoning restrictions designed to block the construction of the Gravel Hill landfill.
Schafer has sued to block the zoning restrictions. That case is pending in Circuit Court.
The Maryland Court of Special Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments tomorrow from the council and Schafer concerning an earlier court case focusing on the council's removal of the landfill project from the county's solid waste plan.
The council has allocated about $200,000 for the legal battle so far.