TANEYTOWN — After 2 1/2 years of zoning hearings and court cases, the fate of a controversial sludge storage facility on a farm here appears to be sealed in favor of a citizens group.
In a Dec. 20 order, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, denied a petition from Enviro-Gro Technologies to hear a case decided in September by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Enviro-Gro is the Baltimore sludge management company that constructed the storage facility three years ago on the Robert C. Neal farmoff Bear Run Road.
Enviro-Gro can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court or ask the Court of Special Appeals to reconsider its decision. Enviro-Gro officials couldn't be reached for comment late last week. TheSupreme Court rarely hears such local-issue cases.
Enviro-Gro hasbeen barred from storing sludge in the 8-foot-deep football field-size facility since the case entered the legal system. The company has contracts with municipal sewage treatment plants to dispose of sludge, the solid byproduct commonly spread on agricultural land as a fertilizer.
The special appeals court ruled that the facility did not fulfill an agricultural purpose and did not merit zoning approval.
Residents living near the Neal farm formed Concerned Citizens for theProtection of Land, Water and Wildlife upon discovering the facility. The group pressed the county to outlaw its use, saying the facilityproduced odors after Enviro-Gro began filling it. They feared the facility could contaminate ground water and land, devalue properties and create hazardous truck traffic on narrow roads.
"Our goal throughout was to resist its use," said Charles "Mike" Preston, the Westminster attorney for CCPLWW. "It's going to stay empty. My client's side has to be a little more buoyed up."
Group leader Gwenn Bockelmann couldn't be reached for comment.
Neal said he hadn't been informed of the decision as of Friday and did not have any plans for the vacant structure. He has a contract with Enviro-Gro.
Preston said if the structure is to be dismantled, the county probably would have to pursue that end in court.