The county is lining the Millersville Landfill with a giant garbage bag, to prevent the contamination of ground water and bring its largest trash disposal facility in line with state environmental laws.
Contractors began laying a double-layered, plastic liner Friday, more than 17 days behind schedule to meet the state's Sept. 12 deadline.
Lisa Ritter, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Utilities, said a section of the new disposal area will be open by mid-October. The liner, which includes a pollutant collection and treatment system, will cost about $268,000 per acre. The entire disposal area will cover 32 acres.
The state is considering a county request for an extension, said John Goheen, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. Without an extension, the state could order the landfill closed.
The state ordered the county to construct a new, lined disposal area in April, after county officials fell nearly three years behind schedule in complying with state environmental rules.
Even if the county meets the state deadline, members of a residents' group advising the county on the landfill say the controversy will be far from over.
In the past two weeks, the Millersville Landfill Advisory Committee has demanded that the county roll back the proposed height of future trash piles, cancel plans for two additional disposal areas and explain the facility's history of "broken promises."
The committee of landfill neighbors, appointed by County Executive Robert R. Neall as a liaison between them and the facility's managers, has become increasingly aggressive over the past five months and exceeded its authority, said Thomas H. Neel, director of the county Department of Utilities.
"They are making demands; that's not advisory in any respect," Mr. Neel said. "They're just hostile."
Mr. Neel said the committee was created to advise him on the day-to-day operation of the landfill and not the county's long-term solid waste management goals. He said a countywide committee will be appointed to address those questions.
"That landfill serves 430,000 citizens," Mr. Neel said. "We can't allow a small group to dictate how we use that kind of countywide asset."
During private meetings with several committee members yesterday, Mr. Neel reportedly issued his own ultimatum.
"Tom said very clearly that if we step outside what role the county sees for us, he'll set up a new committee," said Lina Vlavianos, a representative of the Severn River Commission.
In dispute is whether the committee should spend its time, and county resources, investigating how the county Department of Public Works operated the landfill before the Utilities Department took over in the spring.
Ms. Vlavianos has asked the county Office of Law if officials violated county health codes when they built the landfill 20 years ago. The law requires landfills to be located more than 1,000 feet from homes and prohibits dumping within 500 feet.
Ms. Vlavianos said she believes the law was violated and worries that many of the officials responsible still work for the county.
The committee met last night after The Anne Arundel County Sun's deadline.
Since 1987, pollutant levels in two test wells at the center of the landfill have exceeded federal drinking water standards. As rainwater soaks through landfills, it can carry pollutants into the ground.
But Mr. Neel said none of the pollutants in the test wells have left the landfill's 567 acres. He said tests show the landfill did not contaminate four residential wells along New Cut Road. Those wells were found to contain similar pollutants this spring.
The county has spent about $25,000 digging new, deep wells -- all four contaminated wells were a shallow 60 feet -- for the residents. All the new wells should be operational by Sept. 11, officials said.
Mr. Neall appointed outspoken opponents of the landfill to the committee last spring in response to criticism of the facility's management.
Many of the landfill's neighbors called for its closure after they learned the facility had contaminated the ground water and was in violation of state law.