County agrees to weigh composting as alternative to incinerator

April 05, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

In response to environmentalists' critiques of a proposed solid waste plan, county officials have agreed to include consideration of major composting programs as an alternative to an incinerator.

That was one of 53 amendments to the three-volume solid waste management plan offered by officials at last night's County Council meeting. The council delayed a vote on the amendments for more study.

Environmentalists, who met with council members before last night's meeting, expressed appreciation of the proposed amendments. But they said the measures do not go far enough.

They countered with more changes, which included removing language that purportedly makes an incinerator seem like a foregone conclusion.

The environmentalists also proposed a five-year moratorium on construction of an incinerator so recycling and waste reduction efforts could be exhausted first.

"As nice as these [amendments] are -- and we're glad they're in there -- they are abrogated by leaving the waste-to-energy [incinerator] in there," said Mary Rosso, director of the Maryland Waste Coalition.

Many of the proposed amendments involved technical changes of wording or dates, or were requested by the state Department of the Environment.

But 17 of the amendments were drafted by public works officials after hearing environmental groups who criticized the plan at public hearings.

Environmentalists have pointed to composting as a way to avoid an incinerator, which they contend would spew harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.

In the first of two composting amendments, the county has agreed to evaluate by July 1995 whether it should begin a program that would require residents to separate organic wastes, such as food, to be collected by trash crews and composted.

In the second amendment, the county has committed to complete by the same date a feasibility study on building its own organic waste composting facility or possibly participating in a regional facility.

In another concession, county officials said that before deciding to build or participate with other counties in building a waste-to-energy incinerator, they would take into account the effectiveness of recycling, waste reduction and composting.

The county has also agreed to start charging residential customers for each bag of garbage they put out by April 1995, a year earlier than planned.

The council also passed an amendment, sponsored by Councilman David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville, which removed any mention of the proposed Chesapeake Terrace Rubble Landfill from the solid waste plan.

In the plan, the proposed landfill had been included under the heading of "existing facilities" -- which county officials acknowledged was a mistake -- prompting complaints from residents living near the landfill site who are fighting its permit in Circuit Court.

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