The residents of Rosedale and Chesaco in eastern Baltimore County say they don't want the solution to a national environmental problem built in their backyard.
The problem is the millions of tons of soil contaminated with gasoline from leaking underground tanks across the state and nation. Several companies think one practical solution is to put the soil into a kiln and burn off the petroleum.
Residents call it incineration. The companies call it soil reclamation.
The Bryn Awel Corp. wants to build a plant at Pulaski Highway and Todd Lane that will take about 300,000 tons of contaminated soil a year and turn it into asphalt and crushed stone.
But the residents say that they are concerned that the material, which is considered hazardous waste in some states -- New Jersey, for example -- would contaminate the ground water around the plant. And they are tired of living near heavy industry. "It is one more thing they have plopped down in this area," said Patricia Smith, a resident of the working class neighborhood of Rosedale. "There is the [Pulaski] incinerator, an asphalt plant and several other industries . . . I think enough is enough."
Mrs. Smith also said that she doesn't trust officials to operate the plant in compliance with the state's standards. The Pulaski incinerator, she said, has been polluting for years.
A company official said that all of the material coming into the plant will be tested to ensure that the soil contains no more than 3 percent petroleum and will do quarterly tests of ground water around the soil warehouse.
Maryland environmental officials estimate that the plant would emit about 3 pounds of hydrocarbons -- the volatile ingredients of gasoline -- into the atmosphere every hour. A car driving 15 hours would emit roughly the same amount of smog-producing chemicals.
Three other companies are proposing soil reclamation plants across the state, in Fruitland and Princess Anne on the lower Eastern Shore and in Cumberland in Western Maryland. A fourth plant at Miller Asphalt in Finksburg in Carroll County is already operating.
Baltimore County officials held a public hearing on the company's plan this week but said they will not issue the necessary permit until state environmental officials say that the plant can meet air quality standards.
"If it can be done in a manner that is environmentally sound, this is an effective way to handle these contaminated soils," said Michael Sullivan, a spokesman for the state Department of the Environment. Putting the material in landfills, the main alternative to burning, would put added pressure on landfills that already are reaching capacity, he said.