Having had their fill, Harford leaders advise Cecil Co. that rubble is trouble

November 29, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Harford leaders have been lobbying Cecil County administrators to reject a proposed private rubble fill on a 225-acre parcel near Perryville owned by state Sen. Walter M. Baker and his son.

In response to arguments from Harford's elected officials and others, the Cecil County Planning Commission unanimously rejected the proposal at a Monday meeting attended by nearly 600 people.

A final decision rests with the Cecil County Zoning Board of Appeals, scheduled to meet 7 p.m. Wednesday at Perryville High School.

Harford officials said they intervened because of their county's problems with rubble fills, including a now-closed Abingdon rubble fill where cancer-causing chemicals have been found in monitoring wells.

They expressed concern that the site of the proposed Cecil rubble fill lies within the Susquehanna River water basin, a source of drinking water for both counties.

"I'm not coming here tonight to tell you what to do, but I can tell you I've heard the song before and I've been to the dance before," Harford County Councilman Barry T. Glassman, R-District D, said at Monday's public hearing at Perryville High.

"The operators will tell you the Maryland Department of the Environment does the permitting, and MDE will take care of you. That's not the case," said Mr. Glassman.

Cecil Recycling Center Inc., based in Port Deposit, has proposed putting a construction materials recycling center and rubble fill on land near Interstate 95 and Route 275 now being mined by Cecil Sand & Gravel.

The two companies are separate but have some of the same shareholders. Both companies lease the site from Lojo Inc., whose shareholders include Senator Baker, his son Stephen Baker, Leonard Lockhart and Arthur D. Johnson Jr.

Cecil Recycling needs a special zoning exception before beginning the rubble fill project, and the hearing Wednesday will the third step in the review process.

At Monday's public hearing, consultants for Cecil Recycling testified that the proposed rubble fill would not harm the environment.

J. Lawrence Hosmer, an environmental consultant from Geraghty & Miller Inc. in Annapolis, testified on behalf of Cecil Recycling Center. He said the company wants to recycle rubble, such as wood, concrete and asphalt, then put whatever cannot be salvaged into the fill area.

The fill also would accept asbestos, tree stumps and tires, and some of the construction rubble would come from out of state.

"Releases to the environment will be minimal, if at all," Mr. Hosmer said. "There will be no adverse effects on the quality of the water on this site or in Mill Creek. Materials not allowed in the site would be sent to another facility."

Nobody could mistake the sentiments of the crowd gathered in the high school auditorium, however, despite Mr. Hosmer's attempts at reassurance.

A computer printout taped to the wall outside the school's auditorium read: "Landfills should be filled with land, not trash."

Many in the audience wore lapel labels that said, "Don't dump on us."

Others carried white signs with red letters spelling out the samemessage.

Mr. Glassman's remarks drew loud applause.

The audience also applauded when parts of letters from Harford County Councilwoman Theresa M. Pierno, D-District C, and state Sen. William H. Amoss were read. Both leaders urged the Cecil County government to reject the proposal.

"We in Harford County have learned some difficult lessons from one of our prior private operating rubble fills. . . . The owner was allowed to operate for many years even though they consistently were in violation for disposing of unacceptable waste, improper cover, fires and leachate leaving the fill," wrote Mrs. Pierno.

She referred to the Abingdon rubble fill operated by Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc., which was shut down by the state. The move came after the discovery that unapproved areas of that property had been filled with rubble, and high levels of trichloroethylene, a cancer-causing chemical, were found.

"As a neighboring jurisdiction, I am concerned of what negative environmental affects your rubble fill will have on the entire region," Mrs. Pierno said in her letter.

Senator Amoss, noting that the proposed rubble fill slated for the Perryville area would fall within his district, wrote a letter asking: "What insurances can be given to the adjacent property owners and the community that something will not damage the air quality and/or surface or ground water? One way to be 100 percent sure that this will not happen is not to have the rubble landfill."

Rejecting the proposal, the planning commission noted the site is part of the Susquehanna River drainage basin, and material leaching from the site could hurt water quality.

The commission also cited concerns about the proposed rubble fill's effect on economic development in Perryville, Port Deposit and nearby Bainbridge and the fact that the site is near two schools.

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