Class action suit over Millersville Landfill dismissed Neighbor wanted $130 million, county dump closed

July 01, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A Circuit Court judge has dismissed a class action suit that charged county and state officials with mismanaging the Millersville Landfill and sought $130 million in damages.

Tom Fales, a Severn resident who filed the lawsuit April 22, also hTC had asked the court to order the county's largest trash facility closed. The suit included the signatures of more than 380 other plaintiffs, mostly residents who live in communities next to the landfill.

County and state officials asked the court to dismiss the suit, arguing that it had been filed improperly.

The county contended that Fales, whose Constant Avenue home abuts the 567-acre landfill, was the only plaintiff in the suit and he had no legally recognizable complaint against the landfill operation.

It also argued that state law grants the county immunity against such suits and limits its liability to $500,000.

The state, for its part, argued that Fales' suit never said why the Maryland Department of the Environment should have been considered negligent.

Judge Warren B. Duckett dismissed the case in a brief order dated June 17. County Attorney Jud Garrett said he learned of the decision Monday.

Fales, a building contractor who prepared his own legal briefs, said yesterday he is uncertain if he will appeal Duckett's decision.

"If I had the money or had just won the lottery, I wouldn't mind leading the county by the nose down 15 miles of bad road," he said.

Fales said he could request the MDE and the county hold administrative hearings to review the county's permits and zoning. But, he said he concluded, no one would win in the end.

"We're stuck between a rock and a hard spot," he said. "Even if we could prove the county wrong, I don't know what they could do about it now."

Rather than continue the fight, Fales said, he has put his home up for sale.

Residents and environmentalists have complained that the county has chronically violated state environmental laws, including the landfill's operating permit and erosion control laws.

The landfill has come under increased scrutiny since nearby residents learned three months ago about plans to extend its life by 25 years. The residents also are upset that the county found toxic chemicals beneath the landfill in 1985, but never notified them.

Two months ago, similar chemicals were found in the wells of more than 20 adjacent homes, with four wells registering levels in excess of federal drinking water standards.

The MDE has ordered the county to open an environmentally safe disposal site at the Burns Crossing Road facility by Sept. 15.

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