Waste panel members promise 'open minds'

May 16, 1993|By Kerry O'Rourke and Greg Tasker | Kerry O'Rourke and Greg Tasker,Staff Writers

In Carroll, trash is becoming a burning issue. To find the bes way to dispose of it, the commissioners have asked 23 people to study whether the county should build an incinerator to burn waste and generate electricity.

The commissioners appointed a Waste-to-Energy Committee in January to study the issue for 18 months. They wanted a group with varied experience and different viewpoints. Committee members are engineers, environmentalists, lawyers, politicians and business owners.

Like other jurisdictions, Carroll is looking for alternatives to costly landfills. The county's two landfills -- Northern and Hoods Mill -- will be filled within 15 years, and land is becoming scarce for new ones.

Most members said it's too early to know whether Carroll should build an incinerator. Most committee members agreed the group is balanced; those who think it's not disagreed on the direction of bias.

Member Arthur Peck, a retired Westminster veterinarian, said the group seems biased against incinerators. Some members "seem be convinced the best thing is to dig another hole in the ground and monitor another 140 years," he said.

Jacob M. Yingling of Westminster said the group seems biased toward incinerators.

"It seems to me many committee members have a vested interest," he said.

One member works for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., which could buy power generated at the plant; another member sells bonds, which could finance the project; another works for a waste-hauling company.

Former Sykesville Mayor Lloyd W. Helt is chairman of the committee. He wants the group to make a recommendation by January about whether an incinerator is feasible.

"This whole thing should be a part of the election process," he said. "I think people should take a stand, and we need to get our information out there. Obviously, it's an important issue in the county right now.

"It's still too early to tell what we should do. [The committee] has a lot more information to gather. Incineration is something to consider as an alternative to landfilling," said Mr. Helt, who is an attorney.

Briefly, here is who the committee members are and what they say about the panel's task:

* Robert M. Bare of Reese is president of Bare Truck Center, a Westminster truck dealer that leases trucks to refuse-collection companies. He said he is "open-minded" about an incinerator: "It's a fact-finding committee."

* Thomas Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works, oversees city solid waste collection and disposal services.

"One of the difficulties in looking at incinerators is that there are a lot of good models out, but that doesn't mean they would be applicable here in Carroll County," he said. "If you look at the plant in Baltimore that sells steam, Baltimore had many industries set up to use the steam. We don't have that kind of setup here."

He called the availability of water for the incinerator's operation "a critical issue, one we haven't focused on very much."

* Richard J. Borkowicz of Westminster is a mechanical engineer with Versar, a Columbia environmental consulting company. He said he helps clients evaluate pollution-control technologies and federal and state environmental regulations.

"I want to look at all the facts before I make a decision," he said. "All avenues need to be explored -- economic and political and environmental."

* A. Stephen Boyan Jr. of Marriottsville is a political science professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Last year, he co-wrote a book, "Ecology and the Politics of Scarcity Revisited," about environmental problems and why they are worsening.

He hasn't decided whether Carroll should have an incinerator.

"The first thing the county should do is consider other alternatives," including mandatory recycling, he said. The county's recycling rate should be 50 percent to 60 percent, he said. It is 14 percent, county officials say.

"We're going to have to do something, maybe a combination of things," he said.

* Matthew A. Brigance is the owner of Liberty Disposal of Sykesville, which transports waste to Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Co. (BRESCO), a waste-to-energy plant in Baltimore.

"I view it [incineration] as an opportunity for the county if it's handled carefully," he said. The county should build a plant large enough to accept out-of-county trash in order to help pay for the plant, he said.

* Thomas E. Crumley Jr. is a senior engineer in the generation-planning unit of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. The unit determines what kind of power plants to build and when to build them. He was involved in negotiating the contract for BRESCO.

"We have so many issues yet to be looked at and resolved," Mr. Crumley said. "Public opinion has to be taken into account. There are engineering and environmental concerns. We have to weigh the benefits and detriments to society."

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