Is burning trash a good idea, or bad? Beyard offers pros and cons

April 15, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Burning trash in Carroll instead of burying it could be a smart decision or a mistake.

"It's got good points, and it's got bad. You've got to listen to the facts and make your own decision," Westminster Planning and Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard told 28 people at a League of Women Voters meeting.

The Carroll County league invited Mr. Beyard to speak Tuesday night at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center about the pros and cons of using incinerators to dispose of refuse.

"What's the best way to deal with trash? You ask 10 people and you get 10 different answers," he said.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell has proposed building a waste-to-energy plant at the Northern Landfill on Route 140 southeast of Westminster that would burn trash and generate electricity.

In January, the commissioners appointed a 23-member citizens committee to study whether the county should build an incinerator. The county currently buries its trash in two landfills. Mr. Beyard is a member of the committee.

Uniontown resident Rachelle Hurwitz, a league member who also is a committee member, encouraged residents to attend Waste-to-Energy Study Committee meetings "and learn for yourself, as we are, about what's going on.

"Come to the meetings and ask the questions," she said.

The committee meets from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. twice a month at the County Office Building, she said.

For dates, call the Public Works Department, 857-2158.

If the county decided to build an incinerator this year, it would be 14 years before it would be in operation, Ms. Hurwitz said.

One woman at Tuesday's meeting asked whether the decision to build an incinerator in Carroll was "a done deal."

Mr. Beyard said it wasn't. To build the incinerator, the commissioners probably would need approval from the General Assembly, he said.

"To say it's a done deal is probably incorrect," he said.

Mr. Beyard answered questions including:

* Would an incinerator pollute the air?

An incinerator would have to meet state and federal air-quality standards, but it would emit acidic gases, metal particles and organic materials, Mr. Beyard said.

L * Would the county or a private company own the incinerator?

The committee is studying this issue. If the county owned the plant it would have more control over what is disposed of there, Mr. Beyard said.

"Control is one of the most critical issues," he said.

* Would Carroll generate enough trash to run the incinerator?

The committee is studying whether it would be economically feasible to build an incinerator that would burn only county trash, he said.

Officials have estimated that each Carroll household generates a ton of trash a year, Mr. Beyard said.

* Could the incinerator accept trash from other counties and states?

It could, because states cannot regulate interstate commerce, and trash is considered interstate commerce, he said.

* How much would it cost to build an incinerator?

The cost would depend on the size of the plant, but the committee has been told that an incinerator to handle the amount of trash Carroll generates -- about 500,000 pounds a day -- would cost $50 million, he said.

"You're talking some big dollars," he said.

* Where would the county dispose of ash created by the incinerator?

Ash would be buried in the landfills, he said. It is not considered hazardous waste.

Burning the county's trash would reduce the volume of waste buried in the landfills by 90 percent, Mr. Beyard said.

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