Spencer landfill closed Lack of mapping, pollutants cited

August 16, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc., the controversial Abingdon rubble fill where tests revealed high levels of suspected carcinogens in monitoring wells, has been shut down by state environmental officials.

The state Department of the Environment ordered Spencer to stop accepting rubble Aug. 5 amid questions about whether the company had illegally expanded its operation.

John Goheen, a department spokesman, said the agency allowed Spencer's permit to expire Aug. 6 because a topographic map, which would show whether rubble was deposited only in the permitted area, had not been updated.

He also said the agency is concerned about the results of March tests of two monitoring wells on either side of the site, which is split by Abingdon Road. The tests show suspected carcinogens trichloroethylene and dichloroethylene at levels higher than allowed by the state and federal governments.

In addition, Mr. Goheen said, the agency had informed the company that its plan for capping the rubble fill, submitted in January, was unacceptable.

"None of these issues had been addressed to [the Environment Department's] satisfaction," Mr. Goheen said. "We can unequivocally say that we would not have allowed Spencer to continue filling past the permit expiration date until they had addressed these problems."

The ban leaves Harford with one private local rubble fill, operated by Pappy's Inc. on Oak Avenue in Joppa.

Spencer spokesman William L. Geary Jr. called the state's decision "very odd," adding, "I think the state of Maryland made a mistake."

Mr. Geary said state law requires the Environment Department to conduct a hearing before ordering a rubble fill to close, but Spencer got no hearing. He also said the state must show a public health hazard before closing the rubble fill.

Spencer has been trying over a year to expand its operation, on Abingdon Road near Route 7 and Interstate 95, but has run into several snags, including allegations it has already expanded without state or county approval.

Despite the expiration of the original permit, Mr. Goheen said, the state could still grant Spencer a permit for the 10-to-12-acre proposed expansion. But, he said, the environmental concerns the state has raised must first be dealt with.

"We still don't know the source of the contamination," he said. "Was it the result of filling or maintenance activities at the landfill? Would continuing to fill the area exacerbate the problem? We just don't know."

Mr. Goheen also said state officials couldn't determine the fill's capacity without a topographic survey.

State officials do not believe contaminants have spread beyond the Spencer site. He also said that if Spencer still wants to accept waste in the original fill area, it would have to apply for a new operating permit and "go back to square one."

fTC Mr. Goheen said the company would have to submit an overview of its rubble fill plan and perform geological and engineering studies. In addition, a public hearing would be required.

But he questioned whether the original 55-acre site, on Abingdon Road near Interstate 95, would have more room.

"Without a topographic survey, we just don't know," said Mr. Goheen.

But Mr. Geary insisted the site's topography has not changed since the company submitted a topographic study in 1990 and said the company makes every effort to comply with state law.

"We still have room to fill in the original permit area -- 4 1/2 acres across and about 30 feet deep," said Mr. Geary. "If they find we've done something wrong, I'll live with it, but I think they made a mistake."

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