City and suburbs urged to develop master trash plan

February 15, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer Staff writers Patrick Gilbert, Erik Nelson, Greg Tasker and Timothy B. Wheeler contributed to this story.

Come the year 2008, the Baltimore region's 2.65 million people will have almost no place to put their trash.

That assessment by city and suburban officials has led them to join in a pact that calls for the construction of regional recycling, composting and waste-to-energy facilities to stretch the life of area landfills at least another 10 years.

The formal agreement -- completed early this month but released by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council last week -- asks the city, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties to develop a regional master plan by year's end that would identify specific sites for those plants.

Officials said they will conduct a forum for public comment and suggestions this spring.

If the city and counties approve the recommended sites next year, the local governments could be recycling up to 40 percent of the region's trash and burning and composting another 50 percent by the middle of 1997.

That would leave 10 percent that still had to be buried in the region's landfills, considerably less than the 55 percent now dumped there, said Charles "Chick" Krautler, executive director of the Metropolitan Council, which serves as an information clearinghouse on transportation, solid waste and air quality issues.

Local governments are searching for ways to conserve precious landfill space. Existing facilities in the city and four of the counties will be full by 2008.

The problem is more acute for Baltimore, where the Quarantine Road landfill will close in 2001. Harford County is in the best shape; its landfill is expected to last another 20 years.

No sure thing

Construction of the regional facilities is no sure thing. Trash facilities are never popular -- a fact political leaders recognized when they first began negotiating the solid-waste pact last year.

"At first, most said, 'We'd be willing to participate in a big, regional facility if it were built somewhere else,' " said Michael Gagliardo, executive director of the Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, which is advising the local governments.

Eventually, they recognized the regional pact would be doomed to fail if one or two jurisdictions are asked to accommodate all of the facilities, Mr. Gagliardo said.

"Each jurisdiction will have to share the castor oil," said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall.

Carroll, Howard, Frederick and Washington counties tried to reach a similar regional agreement three years ago that included a trash-to-energy plant. However, none of them wanted an incinerator built within their borders and the plan has been shelved.

"In the 2 1/2 years since that fell apart, a lot of things have changed," said Beverly Wilhide, assistant to Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker. "The environmental push, new technology and the awareness of the public will probably make it easier" to cooperate regionally, she said.

But Carroll County Commissioner Elmer Lippy said he expects "the parochial monster will come out" again.

"When we think about regionalism, we should get rid of the idea that our solid waste is more pristine than anybody else's," he added.

Incineration opposition

Any new proposal for a trash incinerator also will run into into fierce opposition from environmentalists who fear it would pollute the air and produce a toxic ash that would have to be dumped in landfills.

Dru Schmitt-Perkins, Maryland director for Clean Water Action, said that the regional pact sells recycling too short.

She noted that its recycling goal is lower than the target set recently by a state-sponsored accord, which urged 50 percent recycling statewide by 1996.

Mr. Gagliardo emphasized that no specific sites, or even facilities, have been selected. But some areas have been identified as better suited than others for some facilities, he said.

Plants to sort, store and market recyclable materials probably should be located in the Interstate 70 corridor between Howard and Carroll counties and in the Interstate 95 North corridor between Baltimore and Harford counties to keep pace with expanding curbside collection programs there, Mr. Gagliardo said.

The confluence of northern Anne Arundel, eastern Howard and South Baltimore will be looked at for yard-waste composting and construction-debris recycling facilities, he said, noting the dearth of such facilities in that area.

Waste-to-energy incinerators would be best located in the I-70 corridor where they could serve Carroll, Howard, and Baltimore counties, or along the Anne Arundel and Howard border where the National Security Agency already has expressed interest in the backup power a plant would provide for its computers and communications equipment, Mr. Gagliardo said.

Carroll County already is studying building an incinerator of its own.

The regional master plan also would outline public education strategies to reduce the amount of trash generated and to curry grass-roots support, Mr. Krautler said.

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