BGE, Marley Neck residents clash over ash piles

April 18, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

Marley Neck residents are facing off against Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. over what they say are broken promises and the prospects of huge mounds of fly ash on land across from Solley Elementary School.

BGE officials call the whole dispute a misunderstanding.

Both sides have taken their cases directly to the public via newspaper advertisements that appeared last week in the Sun and the Maryland Gazette.

The fuss is over a measure the County Council will consider at a public hearing tonight that would require the utility to undergo a special exception process with public hearings to dispose of its fly ash.

At issue is BGE's proposal to deposit fly ash, a waste byproduct from its coal-fired generators at the Brandon Shores and Wagner Point power plants, on the Marley Neck peninsula as it has since 1982. The utility uses the ash as fill material to grade land for its industrial parks, Brandon Woods I and II.

Local residents say that BGE has reneged on promises to fill a third parcel as it did the others and now plans to deposit the ash in mounds that could rise as high as 70 feet with only an 80-foot setback from Solley Road.

The ad the utility ran last week is misleading, residents say, because they don't believe the attractive business park shown will be built.

"They didn't take the picture of the ash in its present state and what they're intending to do with it," complained Mary Rosso, president of the Maryland Waste Coalition, which is assisting the residents in their fight. "I think that's a really distorted view of what the community's very upset about," she said.

Not so, says Peggy Mulloy, a BGE spokeswoman.

"We're not going to turn it into something weird, like a landfill. We are going to turn it into a business park, like Brandon Woods I and II," she said. "And you can't build a business park on mounds."

Ms. Mulloy said the bill requiring the zoning hearing will severely hinder BGE's ability to deposit the ash and could slow operations at Brandon Shores. Utility officials fear the bill would cut in half the seven years now allotted to BGE to deposit fill material on its 265-acre Brandon Woods Phase III site.

The trouble began last fall, when BGE asked county officials to amend its grading permit to increase the height of the fill from 20 feet to 50 feet so it could use the fill for a longer time. BGE officials presented their plan at a community meeting to a resoundingly negative reaction.

"The people said 'No way, it's too high,' " Ms. Mulloy said. "We said, 'OK, we hear you. We're not going to do it.' So we pulled the permit."

BGE went back to its original plan, she said. Any mounds that residents see are the result of the ash being dumped by trucks, but it is soon flattened and compacted.

But the mounds already are rising, Ms. Rosso said.

"All you have to do is come down here and look at the ash pile and see how tall it is."

Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, a Pasadena Republican who sponsored the fly ash legislation, said he has held meetings with residents and BGE in an attempt to reach a compromise and that he will introduce amendments tonight.

"[BGE] agreed to some of the things that are in the bill," he said. "We backed off some of the buffering requirements."

But the utility still does not like the special exception requirement, and the community groups are not going to give that one up, Mr. Holland said.

Ms. Rosso agreed. "Apparently [BGE] can't be trusted to go with what their original intent was," she said.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Arundel Center in Annapolis.

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