Recycling is supposed to be good for the environment, but don't tell that to Rosedale residents right now.
About 600 catcalling, sign-waving residents of the eastern Baltimore County community packed the Eastern Vo-Tech High School auditorium last night to protest plans for a plant in their neighborhood that would "recycle" dirt contaminated by leaking underground fuel storage tanks.
"We're not going to take someone else's trash so they can make big bucks," declared state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, an 8th District Democrat, drawing some of the loudest cheers of the night from the crowd.
The plant is planned by Environmental Recycling Associates, a subsidiary of Bryn Awel Corp., a Towson pavement manufacturer, which wants to put the decontaminated dirt in its asphalt. The proposed facility could process up to 185 tons of soil per hour.
Company officials contend that their plant is a safe way of cleaning up and reusing soil tainted by gasoline, diesel fuel and oil that is leaking from underground tanks.
With 3,300 leaky fuel tanks pulled from the ground last year in Maryland alone, company officials estimate there is a need to clean up 12 million to 16 million tons of contaminated dirt from around Baltimore and Washington alone. Such dirt now is either shipped out of state for disposal or dumped in municipal landfills.
Robert Smith, a lawyer for the firm, contended that the air pollution from the plant would be no worse than that from a corner gas station.
State environmental officials, who must decide whether to permit the plant, say that if operated properly, it should not release unsafe levels of toxic pollutants like lead and benzene into the air.
The soil would be "cooked" in a kiln at 500-600 degrees Fahrenheit to evaporate the petroleum hydrocarbons, then the DTC resulting vapor would be burned off, leaving the soil free of contaminants.
The plant would produce hydrocarbons, which could contribute to the Baltimore region's summertime smog problems, when ozone-laden air can cause breathing problems and lung inflammation.
So state officials say they would limit the facility's operations to 10 hours a day to cut down on those emissions.
But those assurances did not satisfy Rosedale residents, who say they have suffered too long from the odors and pollution of the Back River sewage plant and Pulaski Highway trash incinerator nearby.
"If it's contaminated, it doesn't meet our requirements," shouted one heckler. "You take your facts, take your soil and go somewhere else."
Community leaders contend that previous environmental violations by Bryn Awel show it cannot be trusted to run the soil plant safely.
They presented a videotape showing trucks from out of state dumping contaminated dirt at a warehouse in the city, where it is being stockpiled in anticipation of obtaining state and local approval.