Clean Water Action uses letter lobby to block incinerator Proposed plant divides council

November 08, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

A letter-writing campaign orchestrated by a state environmental group has Howard County officials lining up on both sides of a proposed moratorium on trash incinerators.

The effort, organized by Maryland Clean Water Action, seeks to block a proposed incinerator at the National Security Agency, just outside Howard County along Route 32. The agency is considering building an incinerator to generate its electric power.

The environmentalists, who want the county to establish a goal of recycling 50 percent to 70 percent of its trash by the turn of the century, also would like to head off discussions of any trash-burning options now being considered by the county Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

"I am especially alarmed by the prospect of a regional solid waste incinerator at NSA," Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, wrote Thursday to County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

Mr. Ecker and lawmakers have received more than 200 letters requesting the moratorium and urging the county to adopt recycling initiatives instead.

Cynthia Hurst, Clean Water Action's Maryland staff director, said the group has about 12,000 members in Howard County. It has encouraged them to write officials, seeking adoption of an incinerator construction moratorium similar to a five-year ban in effect in Baltimore, which has two operating incinerators.

"I've never liked incinerators," said Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, who successfully fought against a sludge incinerator proposed for the county-operated wastewater treatment plant in her southeastern county district six years ago.

"I can't think of how it could be proved that it was necessary and positive to have it there. I can only see negatives," Ms. Pendergrass said of the possibility of an NSA trash-burning power plant.

Both Ms. Pendergrass and Mr. Gray argued that incinerators, which need a steady flow of waste to operate, tend to discourage recycling efforts.

Councilmen Darrel Drown, R-2nd, and Charles C. Feaga, R-5th, have both called trash incineration a viable option for disposing of the county's solid waste.

County public works officials, who have had preliminary discussions with Baltimore-area jurisdictions about a possible regional incinerator, say the talks will result in little more than a list of possible projects they could collaborate on.

Mr. Ecker said he had received many letters.

"I probably got a hundred or so, and all of them spelled my name wrong." Mr. Ecker said he doesn't mind the misspelling, but the fact that all of them use "Eckert," indicating that the letters may have originated from the same place.

"I agree that we have to have a comprehensive plan, recycle and compost as much as we can," Mr. Ecker said. "But at some point there's going to have to be something left. What are you going to do with it?

"Do you take care of your own problem, or do you ship it out to Ohio or Pennsylvania or wherever?" he asked. "Landfilling? Is that better environmentally than an incinerator? I don't know."

The county now disposes of most of its waste in the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, but that facility is expected to be filled by 2008.

In May, the County Council approved a $280,000 study to evaluate expansion of the landfill, but the study has been put on hold until the solid waste advisory committee recommends a long-term solid waste plan, expected next month.

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