Environmental laws may force trash fee increase

April 21, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

County residents will have to pay more for trash disposal if the county is to comply with state and federal environmental laws, officials with County Executive Robert R. Neall's administration said yesterday.

Mr. Neall proposed a schedule of fee increases to the County Council Monday night that would raise the annual charge for residents with curbside pickup to $130 from $90.

Commercial haulers -- who collect trash for South County residents, apartment dwellers and businesses -- also would have to pay more when they enter the county's Millersville landfill. The charge per ton would increase to $55 from $50.

Lisa Ritter, a spokeswoman for the county Department of Utilities, said yesterday that the additional money generated by the increases would be used to close the Sudley landfill in South County and provide better environmental protections at the Millersville facility.

Fee increases also would finance the expansion of the county's sporadic leaf-collecting operations into a full-fledged composting program that officials hope will divert all yard wastes away from the Millersville landfill.

If approved by the County Council, the new fees would go into effect July 1. Residents who receive curbside pickup from the county would see the increase in a separate charge on their annual property tax bill.

About 117,000 county residents receive curbside trash and recyclables pickup twice a week.

Sudley landfill is being converted into a drop-off station for residents' trash and recyclables as a cost-saving measure, Ms. Ritter said. Former Utilities Director Tom Neel said last summer that Sudley was operating at a deficit.

State and federal environmental laws that go into full effect in 1994 are the principal reason for the proposed fee increases. A state measure passed last year will prohibit Anne Arundel and other counties from disposing of yard wastes in the same landfills used for the disposal of general trash.

Another state law requires the county to recycle 20 percent of its waste stream, including yard wastes, by next January. The county already is recycling 13 percent with its residential curbside program, Ms. Ritter said.

The federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, passed by Congress in 1987, requires the county to install environmental safeguards at the landfill that previously had not been planned. These include heavy plastic liners and, when sections are closed, plastic covers. The law requires the county to monitor ground water beneath the landfill for 30 years after it has closed, and requires that money be set aside now to pay for that monitoring.

Although the county has experimented with composting at the Burns Crossing Road facility, Tom Andrews, the county's chief environmental officer, said those efforts were abandoned last year. Under the new program, the county will hire a private vendor to compost the material or negotiate with another county that already has a composting facility.

The composting program is expected to cost about $2.7 million next year. Another $3.2 million is needed to construct environmentally safe disposal areas at Millersville.

Over the next 17 years, construction of environmental safeguards and the cleanup of previously unprotected areas at the Millersville landfill will cost about $160 million, Mr. Andrews said.

The Millersville landfill is expected to be full by the year 2008. The county has appointed a task force to consider how it should dispose of its trash in the future.

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