Ecker wants public water near landfill Safety concerns about Alpha Ridge cited

May 12, 1993|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff Writer

The county should bring public water as a safety precaution to the area surrounding Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday.

Although Mr. Ecker hopes to draft legislation and bring it before the Planning Board in June, he estimates that it will take 18 months to amend the county's water and sewer master plan, its 1993 General Plan and other documents necessary to bring water and sewer to the area.

"I think we're going to have to do this sooner or later," Mr. Ecker said, "and we ought to start going through all those hoops now. We ought to start the clock running now."

A newsletter showing a preliminary map of the proposed water and sewer area will be sent to residents in two days, Mr. Ecker said. He said the area would be bordered by Route 144 in the south, extend a little west of Sand Hill Road, and a little north of Route 99.

Mr. Ecker said he wants to set up a meeting with Marriottsville residents and Joseph W. Rutter Jr., county planning and zoning director, to talk about zoning concerns. The area is now zoned rural -- one house per three acres -- and rural residents often oppose bringing water and sewer to their neighborhoods because they believe it will lead to increased development.

Mr. Ecker said he wants to bring water to the area for safety reasons only.

"This is not for the purpose of increasing density," he said.

Regardless, Mr. Ecker said, he will not attempt to impose his will on the community. The meeting with Mr. Rutter will allow residents to voice their concerns, he said, including the possibility that some residents want to increase density.

Toxic contaminants have been discovered in test wells at the Marriottsville site but have not shown up in residential wells nearby. Mr. Ecker has included $100,000 in his proposed operating budget to test and monitor nearby residents' wells.

Dr. Donald L. Gill, a University of Maryland biological chemistry professor and resident who lives near the landfill, said that bringing public water to two new schools by the landfill and the "most threatened" nearby houses is "the most important issue of all."

Dr. Gill started calling public attention to potential problems at the landfill a year ago when he and nearby resident L. Scott Muller waged a successful battle to keep the county from expanding its Alpha Ridge operation onto adjoining property.

Since then, Dr. Gill has closely followed the county's monitoring of test wells at Alpha Ridge. He became especially concerned in February when he learned from county officials that high levels of toxic chemicals were discovered deep in the ground water below the landfill. Several of the chemicals are suspected of causing cancer. They were found in bedrock at levels many times higher than federal drinking water standards.

Since that discovery, Dr. Gill and Mr. Muller have been attempting to convince Mr. Ecker and the County Council to close Alpha Ridge and find other means of trash disposal than a landfill.

Following a meeting with Dr. Gill and Mr. Muller last week, Mr. Ecker decided to establish an Alpha Ridge Landfill Advisory Committee that will include Dr. Gill and Mr. Muller as members.

The purpose of the watchdog committee, Mr. Ecker said, is to provide up-to-date information to the community.

All test results will be forwarded to the committee immediately, he said.

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