Over the next 17 years, Anne Arundel County will have to spend a staggering $160 million to close, clean up and monitor three landfills. Composting and recycling will cost millions more.
Is it any wonder county residents are facing a 44 percent increase in trash pickup fees?
Putting out the trash is like flushing the toilet; people never think about where the stuff goes or how much it costs to get it there. But we can't take this service for granted any longer. The days of dumping garbage in a hole and paying little for the privilege are over.
By law, local governments must move toward state-of-the-art liners and monitoring systems, composting plants and recycling programs.
These cost money -- lots of it. Which is why the County Council must approve County Executive Robert R. Neall's proposal to increase residential trash annual pick-up fees from $90 to $130 starting July 1. Commercial haulers who dump garbage at county landfills also would pay more, $55 a ton instead of $50.
Here's why we need the new revenues:
Under state law, Anne Arundel will no longer be allowed to dump yard wastes in general landfills. That means a new, full-fledged composting plant.
State law also requires the county to recycle 20 percent of its trash by next January. (It now recycles 13 percent.)
Federal law mandates a host of astronomically costly environmental safeguards for landfills, including plastic liners and covers, clean-up of unprotected areas, and ground water monitoring for 30 years after a landfill closes. Money for this monitoring must be set aside now.
The county estimates it will cost $160 million to meet these regulations. Sudley Landfill, which is closing in October, and the defunct Glen Burnie Landfill must be closed, capped and monitored. The Millersville Landfill must be cleaned up and fitted with safeguards, while money to seal it when it closes must be socked away.
The proposed fee increases alone will not pay for this. Trash pickup costs will have to keep rising for several years. Residents should get used to that. There's no way around these expenditures, and paying a little extra now makes more sense than hitting future taxpayers with an enormous bill for the price of neglect.