Court Decision Weakens Local Oversight Of Landfills

April 22, 1992|By Elise Armacost | Elise Armacost,Staff writer

Dissatisfied with the way state environmental inspectors regulated rubble landfills, the County Council passed a tough temporary law two years ago authorizing daily county inspections.

That ordinance expires this month, and a recent court decision will force the county toabandon any hope of making daily rubble landfill inspections permanent, said Councilwoman Virginia P. Clagett, the West River Democrat who has led the crackdown on rubble and sand and gravel operations.

In a recent decision involving a Harford County facility, the courts ruled that only the state has power to permit and inspect rubble landfills, Clagett said. The ruling significantly weakens local legislation regulating rubble landfills.

"It means we're much more limited in controlling what goes on within those rubble landfills than wethought we were," Clagett said.

With the help of a rubble landfill committee, which has been working for almost two years, Clagett said she was getting ready to introduce permanent legislation when the court ruling came down and the tough new bill had to be scrapped.

On Monday night, she introduced another temporary bill designed to restrict rubble operations for six months, until permanent legislation can be crafted.

Among other things, the bill requires rubble landfills to be surrounded by a 6-foot screen or fence; prohibits them fromaccepting hazardous wastes; prohibits the dumping of waste within 100 feet of homes or roads; and limits hours of operations.

Under the bill, landfill operators also are required to prove the facility will have no "material negative impact" on the environment.

Clagett also introduced a resolution authorizing a committee on sand and gravel operations to keep working until May 1993. Although permanent legislation regulating sand and gravel facilities was approved last year,the committee needs more time to study possible glitches in the law and to prepare a report requested by the council.

In other action Monday night, the council:

* Introduced a bill raising a tax on hotels from 6 to 7 percent, to help create a fund for tourism promotion.

* Approved an emergency measure allowing certain businesses at least 1,000 feet off a main road to apply for off-site directional signs. Cultural and historic sites, restaurants, hotels and motels, clubs and marinas will pay up to $150 per sign.

The bill was designed to appease businesses affected by the county's ongoing crackdown on illegal signs. Many businesses complained that customers do not know they exist.

* Approved $1.6 million for 18 portable classrooms and transferred $645,000 in planning money for an addition to Broadneck High School.

* Delayed a vote on legislation allowing carnivals, bazaars and lawn fetes on Sundays.

Hearings on all new bills are scheduled for May 4.

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