One-third of stump fire out Neighbors now unhappy about truck traffic

September 04, 1992|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The fire is out and the ground is smoothed flat on about one-third of the stubborn, 18-month old stump dump fire in Granite, officials told a group of area residents last night.

But a few of the 60 members of the Greater Patapsco Community Association gathered in the Granite Presbyterian Church on Old Court Road were still smoldering about the effort.

Robert Meekins, 69, of the 9000 block of Dogwood Road, didn't have to be told that 150 trucks a day are rumbling past his house now, filled with dirt to dump on the smoky acreage. "I eat trucks every day," he fumed. "Breakfast, lunch and dinner."

He got no promise of quick relief, but did get a vow from George G. Perdikakis, director of the Maryland Environmental Service, whose non-profit group is in charge of the putting out the fire. "I will be at your house Tuesday morning at 7 a.m. and I'll bring my own coffee," the embattled engineer promised, offering to endure the truck torture with Mr. Meekins.

The fire, which started February 2, 1991, on the 100-foot high, five-acre mound of tree stumps at James Jett's Patapsco Valley Farm, is only the most recent chapter of the struggle by neighbors of the stump dump. They have been fighting since 1984 to try to force Mr. Jett to stop his operation, which brought hundreds of heavy trucks filled with debris down their rural two-lane blacktop roads.

Mr. Perdikakis' firm has a contract with Baltimore County to spend as much as needed of the $1.6 million the county has set aside to extinguish the fire. He and county Fire Chief Elwood Banister told the group last night that their effort is going much better than expected and that the fire is out on the third of the site closest to Dogwood Road.

He said county fire trucks will be pouring water on parts of the reartwo-thirds of the land over this weekend beforetons of dirt can be dumped there. The entire job could take as long as nine to twelve months, said Mr. Perdikakis. He said he will have a better idea in six weeks.

Mr. Perdikakis was less reassuring to Roz Roddy and Claude Taylor, both worried that some concealed hazardous wastes they believe were dumped among the stumps over the years will someday seep into their wells. Perdikakis promised to drill monitoring wells, however, and said that work so far has not revealed anything but trees, dirt and one old radiator.

Mr. Perdikakis' strategy for extinguishing the fire is to smother it with 250,000 cubic yards of dirt donated by nearby Genstar Stone Products Co. The dirt will be used to fill air pockets that feed the fire below, snuffing them out. Maryland Environmental Service is obligated to return to the site if fires or smoke are detected after the dirt is in place, Chief Banister said.

Eventually, topsoil will be spread over the dirt, and grass planted, Mr.Perdikakis said. He added that he is available 24 hours a day to the association president, Tom DeMay, and he promised to hold a second progress meeting in six weeks.

The county is under court order to extinguish the blaze.

Early in the fire's history, water and foam were tried before fire officials decided to let it just burn itself down. About half of the stumps have burned, the chief said, which makes the plan to smother the fire feasible.

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