Options pondered for trash disposal include incinerator Landfills inadequate for future waste

February 16, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Anne Arundel officials, who spurned use of Baltimore's BRESCO incinerator 10 years ago, now are looking at the possibility of building their own trash-to-energy plant.

A draft plan outlining the county's trash disposal needs for the next 20 years concludes that relying exclusively on landfills is no longer adequate. It says the county needs more recycling and facilities that either compost trash or burn it.

No longer is there "going to be some magic hole in the ground where everything goes," said Richard Waesche with the county Department of Utilities.

The draft also calls on the county to investigate sharing facilities with other jurisdictions and to incorporate more public participation through advisory boards, Mr. Waesche said.

Already, County Executive Robert R. Neall has signed a pact with Baltimore and four suburban counties to develop a regional plan by year's end that recommends specific sites for a number of shared facilities, including plants to sort, store and market recyclables.

Mr. Neall also has appointed 13 residents -- including business leaders and neighbors of existing county landfills -- to review the county's draft trash plan and make recommendations to the County Council by summer.

Clifton Prince, a Glen Burnie resident and committee member, said the first three meetings have been eye-openers.

"People just don't realize the problem," he said. "We're going to keep building these mounds of trash until we run out of space."

The state requires Baltimore and the 23 counties to prepare a plan every 10 years explaining how they propose to dispose of the trash generated in their jurisdiction for the next decade. The last Anne Arundel County plan was approved in 1983.

Mr. Waesche said Anne Arundel could meet its waste needs for the next decade without building any new facilities because the Millersville and Sudley landfills have enough room to serve county residents for at least 15 years, he said.

The county's draft plan looks forward 20 years because "10 years is just too short" a period to plan for new trash facilities, Mr. Waesche said. "Sometimes it takes 10 years just get a facility sited, let alone built."

Unless the life of Millersville, the largest of the landfills, can be extended, the county must start looking for a replacement by the year 2000, he said.

The draft avoids making recommendations, but concentrates on explaining the costs of each proposed disposal method to the general public, Mr. Waesche said.

Few people realize, for example, that recycling everything is the most expensive option available to the county, almost three times as costly as using landfills and half-again as expensive as composting and burning, he said.

"We need people to understand what these services really cost," Mr. Waesche said. "Some people believe it doesn't cost anything or that we are even making money."

The question the general public must answer, Mr. Waesche said, is: "How much are you willing to pay?"

The draft plan offers options that range from composting yard wastes to converting trash into fuel pellets in seven combinations, all of which will include some recycling.

Mr. Waesche said putting everything in landfills would be the least expensive option and a trash-to-energy incinerator the most expensive, at least for the short term. The cost of burying trash soars after 2008 when a new landfill would have to be built, he said.

Over the long term, a regional burning facility would be the least expensive, he said.

Faced with a similar decision 10 years ago, Anne Arundel officials decided the county should rely solely on its landfills, saying they were more cost-effective than incineration. The County Council refused to send the county's trash to the BRESCO incinerator, which was just opening on Russell Street.

Disposal currently costs the county $20 more a ton at the landfill than it would have at BRESCO.

"It's a case of 20/20 hindsight," Mr. Waesche said. "What looked like a reasonable decision in 1983, we probably wouldn't make knowing what we know in 1993."

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