Alpha Ridge Is Betrayal Of Public Confidence

COUNTY FORUM -- Opinions by and for county readers

November 10, 1991|By Donald L. Gill For the Howard County Sun

It was with great anguish that all of us in Marriottsville, West Friendship, Woodstock and the Route 99 corridor learned of plans to extend the Alpha Ridge landfill.

This plan epitomizes our worst fears of the process by which our County Council makes decisions, fulfills promises and serves its residents. Indeed, if implemented, the plan provides the clearest example of how the council avoids decisions, breaks promises and destroys lives of residents.

In 1978, the landfill was located on Alpha Ridge, encountering little opposition due to the then-sparse local population. Since then, an enormous mountain, built with 13 years' worth of the entire county's waste, has loomed to heights few could ever have imagined. All whotravel along Route 99 can view this.

At the same time, the area has become far more populated than it was in 1978 as many have sought to relocate to an area of ideal balance between rural setting and proximity to Baltimore and Columbia. However, almost all who moved to the area did so with the understanding that the existing landfill was of limited duration and dimensions.

At the time of its inception, the County Council made certain promises.

* The council promised that the facility would be closed on reaching its planned capacity by the year 2000.

* The council promised that the landfill would not be extended after filling the number of cells originally specified.

* The council promised to construct parkland adjacent to and covering completed fill areas to alleviate some of the devastating visual impact of the facility.

All of these promises were broken.

The real inequity of the current location is obvious when it is understood that the immediately surrounding area has the highest density of wells anywhere in the county. Further east, residences have piped water; west, the density of homes is far lower.

In fact, there are more than 300 subdivisions within a 1-mile radius of the proposed landfill perimeter, each dependent on well water. The hydro-geology of the area is unpredictable, with drainage in all directions. At a minimum, all of these residences are threatened with ground-water contamination.How can the council possibly consider continued operation of such a clear threat to the area most dependent on ground water?

Drainage in the expansion area is less adequate, providing a more insidious threat of ground-water contamination. A higher water table requires still greater elevations for dumping cells; the extended fill areas willbe far more unsightly, towering above the natural ridge to be visible on three sides from up to 2 miles away. Many trees on the site would be leveled, and the area would be dominated by a much larger and far more exposed dumping area.

We have heard endless accounts of thepristine character of rural Howard County and the steps to maintain it. We have seen angry responses to developers whose plans are considered out of character with the area.

It is impossible to imagine anything more out of character with this area than the realities of the landfill -- the stench, the endless flock of gulls, the blowing trash and dust, the hideous eyesore of a mountain of soggy decaying garbage, the penetrating roar of heavy equipment , the never-ending beeping of tractors reversing, the endless traffic on local roads, the spilled garbage everywhere, and, worst of all, the insidious worry of polluted drinking water.

We strongly object to the tactics of the council and county executive in deliberately ignoring more appropriate sites, and in acting swiftly and perfidiously to implement only the landfill expansion plan. The government sought a hastily executed decision based on a cursory re-evaluation of the site, hoping to circumvent opposition.

Well, the council may have met with mixed responsesto other projects in the area such as Waverly Woods. But make no mistake: Every single last one of the residents in the area is totally committed to opposing the planned landfill expansion.

We do understand that there must be a landfill in Howard County and also that no one will wish it close to their own area. However, there are clearly identifiable alternative sites that pose far less danger, would provide greater use at lower cost, and would meet with less opposition.

Most importantly, Dr. Ecker and the Howard County Council must realize that area residents have suffered enough. We have paid our debt to the county's waste disposal a thousand-fold over. We want to rest from this assault, lick our wounds and recover.

Let us live in peace before we are driven to rest in peace.

(Donald L. Gill lives in Marriottsville.)

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