Residents skeptical of controls on Solley Road landfill leak

June 03, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Residents of Marley Neck and areas around the peninsula voiced little confidence last night in untested techniques that the owner of a closed hazardous waste landfill in their midst is proposing to use to stop the leakage of contaminated water.

"We are tired of being the guinea pigs," said Marge Huggins of the Suburbia neighborhood.

Browning-Ferris Industries owns the Solley Road landfill, which was shut in 1982. What was then a state-of-the-art protective clay cap is failing, as its cracks allow gas to seep out and rain to seep in. A system installed last year to reinject water stripped of carcinogens into the ground has been shut down since March because, although the water is considered clean, efforts to return it to the underground water supply result in blockages.

BFI has received federal Environmental Protection Agency approval to reseal the two mounds at the landfill -- first with clay, then a layer of shredded tires covered with a filter cloth, topped with a controversial mix of dirt, fly ash and sludge. Nearly two dozen gas extraction wells would suck out gas, mostly methane, that would be burned at the landfill.

Eventually, BFI hopes that seal will halt the flow of contaminated ground water by shutting off the source. Meanwhile it is looking at several ways of dealing with the treated water it cannot inject into the ground. State and county permits are pending for work BFI hopes to do this summer and fall, and over four to five months next year.

At last night's community meeting, which BFI held to explain its plan, residents complained that the company's plan to fix the landfill is a smoke screen to bring in more waste.

"The impression I get is that you are opening a closed landfill to bring in more landfill material," said Jack Broderick of the Pinehurst Community Association.

Jill Nelson, project manager for BFI, said that was not the case. Rather, she said, BFI is trying to make good use of available materials. She and EPA officials said they believe the technology will work though this particular mix has not been used elsewhere. But shredded tires have been used for drainage elsewhere; sludge is used as fertilizer, and fly ash can be used for its bulk, they said.

However, the community is embroiled in a dispute with Baltimore Gas and Electric over its nearby fly ash landfill, and some residents said they saw this as a way for BGE to fill another site with the byproduct of burning coal. A bill to regulate fly ash is due for consideration at Monday's Anne Arundel County Council meeting.

Ms. Nelson said the utility agreed to supply the fly ash, but County Councilman Carl "Dutch" Holland said BGE officials told him they would not be supplying fly ash for the proposed project.

Mr. Holland, who represents Marley Neck, said that while the community understands the need to fix the landfill, it doesn't want the facility to be used for an experiment in untried technology.

State Sen. Phil Jimeno, who represents the area in the Maryland General Assembly, said the community would be more comfortable with more conventional methods.

"I think with the environmental and health concerns, I am interested in more conventional methods," he said.

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