Seeking Solutions in Rubble

December 07, 1992

For the second time in a month, Cecil County has rejected plans for a private rubble fill and recycling center for building materials. Though the application for a Perryville rubble fill, rejected last week by the county planning appeals board, may be headed for court, Cecil's citizens and officials have clearly spoken on the idea.

They got, but didn't need, advice to reject it from Harford council members and from the Perryville-area state senator, William H. Amoss. (Cecil's other senator, Walter M. Baker, is a part-owner of the proposed rubble fill site.) The councils of Port Deposit and Perryville were also against it.

Next door, Harford County is fighting at least three operating and proposed private rubble fills.

The Harford County Council wants to add a rubble operation at the county-owned Scarboro landfill, primarily so that Harford could legally ban all out-of-county rubble. (Private fills cannot.)

The county is also angry at and mistrustful of the state Department of Environment that regulates landfills.

Cecil residents raised legitimate concerns about the potential pollution of public water supplies and about the negative effect the operation could have on desirable development of the area. Only 10 percent of the rubble would come from Cecil County, the operators admitted.

Three detailed proposals for private rubble fills in Cecil have fallen through in two years. In each instance, the public has asked: why not a county facility to take building materials? So this month, the Cecil planning office will propose laws limiting rubble fills to county-owned open space. No specific site is targeted but several could fit the bill, planning director Al Wein said.

In one sense, it's a good idea. County operation might limit the kind of problems experienced in other rubble fills, such as the dumping of unlawful toxic refuse, pollution of ground water, pests, dust and traffic nuisances. Any "profit," of course, would go to the county treasury.

There's no guarantee, however, that a county-owned site would be preferable environmentally to a privately owned site. Or that communities would welcome a new landfill in their midst just because their government owns it.

Landfills are exceptionally controversial facilities. There are no easy answers. But the concept of a regional rubble fill and recycling operation, involving Cecil and Harford counties, deserves exploration to solve their common problem.

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