The Millersville Landfill will be shut down unless the county opens an environmentally safe disposal area by Sept. 12, state officials reaffirmed Tuesday.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has approved a county plan to ship trash out of state if a new "cell" with a protective plastic liner is not completed in time.
But, in a letter to county officials, Richard W. Collins, director of the state Hazardous and Solid Waste Administration, said the state will not allow the county continued use of the unprotected areas.
"The [county's] short term plan appears to indicate that limited landfilling would continue on existing or closed landfill cells until Cell 8 is ready for waste acceptance," Collins said. "We reject that option under any circumstance."
Jody Vollmar, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Utilities, which operates the landfill, said yesterday that county officials were "pleased" by MDE's approval of its contingency. But, she said, officials had not fully reviewed Collins' comments.
The MDE also has agreed that the existing disposal areas -- combined cells 5, 6 and 7 which dubbed "Mount Trashmore" -- should not be excavated. The state had asked the county to study the feasibility of reducing the height of those cells by nearly 50 feet to comply with state law.
Collins agreed with the county's May 29 study that "excavation of significant volumes of waste would result in conditions detrimental to the environment." It would cause erosion and unnecessarily expose the trash to rain which can carry pollutants into the ground water and nearby streams, he said.
Additionally, excavation could generate "substantial odors," expose workers to potentially dangerous landfill gases, would be an "unreasonable burden" on county taxpayers, Collins said. The county estimated that excavation could cost as much as $150 million.
For the first time, the MDE is requiring the county to plan for the clean up of the polluted ground water beneath a portion of the landfill. Collins said the county should plan for the collection and treatment of storm water polluted by trash as well as contaminated ground water beneath Mount Trashmore.
As the county designs a protective cap for those cells, Collins said it also must dispose of potentially explosive landfill gases.
"Acceptable disposal methods include burning it off in an enclosed flare, or processing it for use as an energy resource," Collins said, adding that the county will need an air quality permit from the MDE's Air Management Administration for either option.
"Please note that passive venting of the landfill gas will not be considered an acceptable alternative," he said.