Carroll considers trash-to-energy plant

December 27, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

The Carroll commissioners plan to appoint a committee consisting of environmentalists, trash haulers and others to study the possibility of building a waste-to-energy plant in the county.

The committee, expected to be named within the next few weeks, will return to the commissioners within the coming year with a recommendation on waste incineration as an alternative source to landfills for trash disposal.

"It's something we want to get on right away," said Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy. "This is a very initial phase. We're just starting to consider names."

Mr. Lippy said he will ask the committee to review a regional study completed several years ago that addressed incineration. The study involved Frederick, Carroll, Washington and Allegany counties.

"There are still some absolutes in there we can draw upon and save a lot of time," Mr. Lippy said.

But there also were some negatives. "[The study] pointed out several things -- that it would be terribly expensive and nobody wants it," he said.

Pushing the commissioners forward with a study is the long process involved in building an incinerator -- about five years -- and a state mandate for Carroll to recycle 15 percent of its waste materials by 1994.

The county, through a voluntary recycling program, already has met that goal. However, the commissioners are concerned about solid waste disposal, including the high costs associated with landfills and the lack of markets for some recyclable materials.

Officials are updating the county's 10-year solid waste management plan and have been considering a waste-to-energy plant -- which produces power by burning trash -- as an option for solid waste disposal.

The county's two landfills are expected to reach capacity by the year 2007. Those landfills, along with the recycling program, comprise the county's current solid waste management plan.

"The time is right to get started," said Commissioner President Donald I. Dell. "It takes at least five years from the start of the process before an incinerator is ready to use."

The commissioners have visited waste-to-energy plants in Lancaster, Pa., Fairfax County, Va., and Harford County in the past few years.

"I've been impressed with all the facilities I've visited," Mr. Dell said. "I'm enthused about this. And since word has gotten out, nobody has come to me with a negative attitude."

Part of the committee's charge, he said, will be to educate the public about the benefits of waste-to-energy plants. Mr. Dell said he envisions the committee holding information meetings every couple of months to address public concerns.

The commissioners said that they expect resident to raise questions about emissions and truck traffic associated with an incinerator. Mr. Lippy said residents also are likely to have concerns about the location of a waste-to-energy plant.

He has suggested the Northern Landfill on Route 140 outside Westminster as a possible location. A plant there would be cost-effective, eliminating trips to and from a landfill. The Lancaster facility, he said, must transport garbage from a landfill 15 miles away.

"We don't intend to push this down anybody's throat," Mr. Lippy said. "The reason why the committee is being formed is that it's good to accumulate as much data and information as we can.

"When we get that whole body of information, then we'll make a decision."

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