Landfill Adviser Dumped

Agency Helped With Landfill Redesign

April 24, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

The county has fired the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authorityas project manager for the redesign of the troubled Millersville Landfill.

The 3-year-old contract with the independent state agency, which provides solid waste expertise to Baltimore and the metropolitan counties, was severed soon after Department of Utilities Director Tom Neel took over management of the landfill nine days ago, county officials said.

Yesterday, Neel said he was uncertain what services the authoritywas actually providing the county since Richard Waesche, the chief of the county's solid waste division, had been spending more time supervising the redesign than he had the 62-employee bureau.

The solidwaste division manages the Millersville and Sudley landfills, as well as a countywide recycling program.

"Waesche had become a quasi-project manager," Neel said. "He was doing more than they were. What were we paying them for?"

Michael Gagliardo, executive director forthe authority, said his agency provided Waesche with technical assistance but never saw itself as the primary project manager.

The county also has transferred Ray Riggins, the county's chief sediment-control inspector, from the Department of Inspections and Permits to thelandfill, to bolster the facility's historically weak erosion-control efforts. Riggins inspected the site yesterday and began videotapingproblem areas.

"I've directed him that I don't want any soil leaving the site," Neel said.

Neel has shifted responsibility for the landfill's redesign to professional project managers within his department, which also manages the county's eight sewage-treatment plants and the public water system. Saying he can hold his own en gineers more accountable for errors or delays, Neel said the change will allow him better control of the landfill.

"There are so many fingers andhands in the thing right now, we can't tell who is supposed to do what," Neel said. "This way I can point to my chief engineer and say 'You're responsible.' "

The change also will allow Waesche to concentrate on the management of the bureau.

When Neel took over the solid waste division from the Department of Public Works on April 15, hesaid he would evaluate the bureau's management. Several residents, who live near the Burns Crossing Road facility and are angry over chronic violations of state environmental laws, have demanded that top managers be fired.

Yesterday, Neel said a fair evaluation of Waesche's performance as bureau chief has been nearly impossible.

"(Waesche) never gets back into the landfill or into anything else," said Neel, referring to other management duties, such as procurement and personnel. "He's the bureau's top manager, but until I can get him away from (redesign), I can't judge his performance."

Neel said he willjudge Waesche and other landfill managers on how well they bring thelandfill into compliance. The Maryland Department of the Environmentissued a complaint on April 15, giving the county 150 days to construct an environmentally safe disposal facility at the 567-acre site.

"The top people are going to be tested very quickly as to their performance as to what we want done," Neel said. "If changes are required, I won't hesitate one lick to let someone go. That's been made veryclear to the bureau manager."

Neel said his department has been operating in a "crisis-management mode" since taking over the landfilland receiving the state order to open a new, $10 million disposal cell with a plastic liner and pollutant-collection system.

Although modern lined cells are part of the county's proposed redesign, Neel's"gut feeling" is that the county cannot meet the 150-day deadline. The redesign has been under review by the MDE and other agencies sinceOctober 1989.

If the state will not bend, the county could be forced to close the landfill and find another disposal facility for the 1,200 tons of trash sent to Millersville every day, Neel said. He said the county could send some trash to the BRESCO waste-to-energy incinerator in Baltimore, but not all of it. "The county will be stuck," he said.

Utilities Department teams also will determine whether the proposed double-liner is the "state-of-the-art" system it has been billed to be, whether the leachate-treatment system is adequate, and whether contaminants found in two ground-water monitoring wells are leaving the site.

Health Department officials have found four nearby residential wells contaminated with pollutants similar to those found in the monitoring wells. But, they say, additional monitoring wells between the polluted wells at the center of the landfill and the residential wells are clean.

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