Neall meeting mollifies landfill advisory group

January 16, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Members of the Millersville Landfill Advisory Committee, after airing their frustrations to County Executive Robert R. Neall, appear to be satisfied that communication and cooperation with county officials will improve.

The seven-member committee was about to vote at its Jan. 4 meeting on a motion to disband when Councilman David G. Boschert asked them to hold off until they could meet with Mr. Neall.

George Taback, president of the committee of residents living near the landfill, said the group was ready to reorganize as an adversarial organization rather than an advisory body. But after a sometimes tense, two-hour meeting with Mr. Neall on Friday, Mr. Taback seemed satisfied that the executive heard their complaints and would take some action.

The motion to disband will still be put to a vote at the committee's Feb. 1 meeting, but "the motion will be voted down, I'm confident," Mr. Taback said.

Mr. Neall promised he would seek a legal opinion from County Attorney Judson P. Garrett Jr. on a provision in the county code that requires a buffer of at least 1,000 feet between the landfill and any residence.

Residents argue that the county's proposal to open a new area of the landfill for dumping would put refuse within 1,000 feet of homes. County officials counter that when the landfill was approved 20 years ago, there was a 1,000-foot buffer between it and the nearest houses. Since then, houses have been built closer to the landfill. To avoid being subject to the 1,000-foot buffer, the county is arguing that it must meet the requirements of another section of the code, which allows for a 500-foot buffer between houses and locations inside the landfill where the trash is actually dumped.

Advisory committee members, who realize Mr. Garrett may not rule in their favor, want the county attorney's opinion because they cannot get an attorney general's opinion, their ultimate goal, without it. "We can live with that, as long as it's the first step in going toward the next step," Mr. Taback said.

Committee members also railed against some county officials who, they said, presented plans involving the landfill to them with a "like it or lump it" attitude.

"That will be modified, believe me," said John M. Brusnighan, director of Public Works.

But the officials at the meeting, which included chief environmental officer Tom Andrews, Mr. Neall and Mr. Brusnighan, warned members they may not like the answers to some of their concerns. "I can't change reality," Mr. Neall said. "I'm not Mandrake the Magician. I can't pick the landfill up and move it away." Mr. Neall emphasized that the landfill belongs to all the citizens of the county and that he cannot base his actions on the wishes of a handful of Millersville residents.

"I am not going to close it," he said. "And if I did that, I think it would be an impeachable offense. I'm not going to do it."

But Mr. Brusnighan did promise that at the Feb. 1 meeting he would provide the advisory committee with answers to the following questions:

* Why is the county doing the engineering work necessary to provide county water for residents surrounding the landfill? Local residents have said they do not want to pay the costly connection fees for county water.

* Has the county complied with all of the requirements set forth by the Maryland Department of the Environment?

* What is the status of county plans to buy property from six residents adjacent to the landfill? Committee members were angered that the county pursued the sale without consulting them.

The Millersville Committee is asking that the water in the wells of 10 percent of the 400 homes in the immediate area surrounding the landfill be tested annually.

The committee also asked that the county spell out its plans for pumping out and treating material leaching from the landfill's first seven cells, all of which have been sealed. Trash is now being deposited in the eighth cell.

The committee asked that the county provide it with a copy of its permit application to construct and open the ninth cell.

The committee also asked the county to request that the MDE search its files for documentation relating to the original approval for the landfill in 1974.

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