Dump panel's activities draw county's warning Group will persist with landfill inquiry

September 03, 1992|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A county panel vowed Wednesday to pursue alleged wrongdoing at the Millersville Landfill despite threats that it will be disbanded if it does.

The Millersville Landfill Advisory Committee will press county officials to explain why the facility was in chronic violation of state environmental laws -- and, its members believe, county zoning and health codes -- since it opened in 1974, chairman John Scofield said.

The committee of landfill neighbors, appointed by County Executive Robert R. Neall in the spring, also wants more restrictions placed on the facility's operation and assurances that it will not harm their health, members said.

The committee has demanded that the county roll back the height of future trash piles, cancel plans for two additional

disposal areas, and extend public water at no cost to 425 residents who live near the Burns Crossing Road facility.

Committee members complained that the rest of the county benefits from the landfill while they must cope with noise, traffic, potential health hazards and the stigma of living next to a dump.

"If we have to be the slaughtered lamb, there are things they can do to make us happy," said Ann Lewin, whose Dichus Mill Road home abuts an undeveloped portion of the landfill.

Thomas H. Neel, director of the county Department of Utilities, has charged that the committee, created as a liaison between the landfill's neighbors and its managers, had become "hostile" and had strayed beyond its scope. Several committee members, who met privately with Mr. Neel Monday, said they were told they would be disbanded and a new panel appointed unless they became more cooperative.

"Officially, [the meeting with Mr. Neel] was to slap my hand," said Mr. Scofield, who forwarded a list of demands to the county last week. "We're not supposed to write any more letters like that, I guess."

Mr. Neel said he had hoped the committee would address traffic, litter and noise concerns arising from the day-to-day operation. Instead, some members appear more intent on closing the 567-acre dump, which accepts most of the county's trash, he said.

"That landfill serves 430,000 citizens," he said Monday. "We can't allow a small group to dictate how we use that kind of countywide asset."

But last night, Mr. Scofield and other members said they still want to know whether the county violated its special zoning exception when it piled trash higher in three disposal areas than original plans proposed. They also want to know whether the county violated separate health codes that prohibit landfills within 1,000 feet of homes and prohibit dumping within 500 feet.

Some members also worry that a 32-acre disposal area under construction will be allowed to exceed its proposed size.

Mr. Neel said he would investigate whether a special exception would be required for such an expansion.

The Maryland Department of the Environment cited the county for extensive violations at the Millersville Landfill in April.

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