Council and activist spar over landfill

March 11, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Council is set to approve $25,000 to hire private lawyers to help keep the former Parkton landfill off the federal Superfund list of hazardous waste sites.

The vote, scheduled for Monday night's meeting, comes amid charges by north county environmental activist Richard W. McQuaid that the county is more interested in saving money than in correcting whatever public health problems may exist at the landfill.

As a result of his complaints, the Environmental Protection Agency has ordered new tests at the landfill to see if pollution from the site is filtering into local wells. The tests began Tuesday.

Hayden administration officials denied Mr. McQuaid's charge, arguing that years of testing have shown no significant pollution caused by the landfill.

"There seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding about this," county administrative officer Mereen E. Kelly told the County Council at Tuesday's work session. "Our intent is not to cover up anything."

Landing on the federal list of the nation's most polluted sites would expose the county to as much as $30 million in cleanup costs, Mr. Kelly told the council.

"I don't want to end up on the Superfund list because of a technicality," he said, so the administration wants to hire environmental law specialists from the Baltimore firm of Piper & Marbury.

"The EPA is not infallible. They make mistakes," he declared.

Council Chairman Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-3rd, agreed.

"I don't have all the confidence in the world in the way the federal government does its business," he said.

Mr. McQuaid, a retired chemist who lives in Parkton and serves as president of the Maryland Line Area Association, lectured the County Council after its work session.

He said his own private testing of wells near the old landfill show polluted drinking water, and he noted that county paramedics stationed 450 feet from the landfill use bottled water.

He said the county's plan to install a $1.7 million impervious cap on the landfill to keep water out of the trash cells on the 217-acre site is "like putting a new lid on a trash can with no bottom."

County public works director Gene Neff disagreed, arguing that the cap will prevent water from washing through the trash and then into ground water.

The EPA arranged for water tests at Parkton after Mr. McQuaid and neighbors complained that state tests were insufficient.

The landfill, which was open from 1978 to 1982, accepted shredded trash that had been processed at the county's recycling center in Cockeysville.

Mr. Neff and Mr. Kelly said the county is concerned about public health and will clean any pollution that is discovered. Mr. Neff said the county has been monitoring test wells on the site since the landfill closed and has not found any pollution from the refuse buried in the clay-lined pits.

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