Alpha Ridge Expansion Study 'Devious,' Say Neighbors

February 23, 1992|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

A group of western Howard County residents believes the county has dealt with them in bad faith. They want it to stop.

Their immediateconcern is a $285,000 capital budget request before the Planning Board to study the property next to Alpha Ridge landfill as a site for possible expansion. The county says Alpha Ridge will reach capacity inabout eight years and a new site must be found soon.

What is disturbing, residents say, is that the county is considering expanding Alpha Ridge before looking elsewhere. The study requestsays the county will look elsewhere only if it becomes necessary.

A spokesman for the 110 residents attending the hearing Thursday called that plan unacceptable: "It is a devious, dishonest way to proceed."

It's devious, said Marriottsville resident Donald L. Gill, because the study request was never posted as a substantial change in this year's capital budget requests. And it's dishonest, he said, because western county residents were promised the landfill would never beexpanded.

To expand the landfill now would pose a threat to more than 1,600 residents, Gill said. "It is a major threat to the health and property of 400 subdivisions having the highest density of wells anywhere in the county. Right smack in the middle of those wells is the dump."

When Alpha Ridge was first proposed in the late 1970s, residents were promised that it would be confined to the current location and that it would be closed when filled and turned into park land, Gill said.

"We believed the dump had a finite lifetime and finite limits," Gill told the board. "It is almost criminal to consider expansion now, given so many wells."

Residents told the board they had also been promised that their wells would be checked every year for contaminants. But that happened only in September 1978 and January 1991, Ellen Rhudy told the board.

Rhudy, who bought her Frederick Road property in 1975, said county officials told her there would be no further testing of wells unless it was done privately.

More recent residents, their voices choking with emotion, said they were upset by both the infrequency and quality of testing. They said they did not believe the county had tested their water for cancer-causing agents. Some said they no longer drink their well water, but buy bottled water instead.

Steven R. Plotz, who bought his Mountview Road property in 1983, agreed. "This is a moral issue," he said. "It is an issue of promises broken. The lack of follow-up has been most disconcerting. The County Council owes us more than that."

Plotz said he recently wrote council members about residents' problems with the landfill, "but not one of them addressed my concerns."

Even worse, he said, was a letter from one council member saying he had reviewed past documents and saw nothing that would prevent the county from expanding Alpha Ridge.

Early Thursday night, Planning Board chairwoman Helen E. Reuther told residents they need not go into much background for her because she had taken part in many landfill discussions in the late 1970s.

"My recollection is that the there was a promise that the land would be turned into a park, that the water would be monitored, and that the landfill would be constructed in such a way that it would not leach," Reuther said.

Among this year's other capital budget request is an $11 million project to construct a system of cell liners to prevent leaching in undeveloped portions of the landfill. Earlier portions had no such liners. They were built instead on what John J. O'Hara, chief of the bureau of environmental services, called a compacted base.

The Planning Board will review the capital budget requests for conformity with the General Plan and forward its recommendations to County Executive Charles I. Ecker later this month.

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