We Cannot Shirk Disposal Solutions

May 01, 1994|By JAMES J. RILEY

The Citizen Advisory Committee for Anne Arundel County Solid Waste Management Plan was formed in December 1992 and was charged with making recommendations to the county government for the development of a comprehensive solid-waste management plan.

This action was mandated by the state requirement that each county and the city of Baltimore present a plan of action with respect to all types of solid waste and all phases of solid waste management for the succeeding 10-year period.

The CAC held semi-monthly meetings and has met for more than 200 hours. It has heard presentations from experts in waste management, other citizen groups, environmental advocates, and has visited and studied several waste management facilities.

After careful deliberation and study, the CAC has made the following recommendations with respect to the County Solid Waste Management Plan:

* Continue and increase recycling.

* Separation of residential/household hazardous waste in a year-round collection and disposal program.

* Composting or mulching of yard waste with curbside collection utilizing biodegradable packaging.

* Recovery and recycling of land clearing, construction and demolition debris.

* Composting of organic wastes (e.g., wastewater sludge, food waste) on a county-only or a regional basis.

* Composting municipal solid waste, if economically feasible and only if accomplished as a regional program.

* Use waste-to-energy to handle waste that cannot be recycled/composted.

* Landfill only residual wastes.

The most controversial of these recommendations is the use of a waste-to-energy facility to handle waste which cannot be recycled or composted.

A waste-to-energy facility burns trash and reduces the volume of trash up to 90 percent while transforming the energy contained in the waste into useful forms of energy (steam or electricity).

This process also offsets fossil fuel consumption. In addition, ferrous metal recovered from combustion ash will be a major contributor to our county's recycling effort. Facility emissions are strictly regulated by both state and federal agencies, as are handling and disposal of combustion ash.

In light of the fact that Millersville is the only landfill accepting municipal solid waste and there will be no disposal capacity here after 1997 unless the final cell is constructed and this is only projected to provide capacity until the year 2008, time is of the essence.

If we did not go with a waste-to-energy facility at an approximate cost of $120 million to $150 million, then we must begin the process of siting an additional landfill at a cost of $1 million per acre or approximately $500 million for a 500-acre site. Where to put it and how to pay for it are primary concerns.

A waste-to-energy facility, on the other hand, can be sited on less than 40 acres and the cost can be offset by the selling of steam or electricity to the local power company.

How we handle our solid waste is a complicated and technical issue charged with emotion. There are pros and cons to whatever solution we select, but select a solution we must. There is no magic wand to be waved. The time to act is now.

James J. Riley is a member of the Anne Arundel County Citizen Advisory Committee on Solid Waste.

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