Residents want Browning-Ferris to be forced to clean up landfill

August 12, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Angry Pasadena residents demanded yesterday that state officials deny a surface water discharge permit to the owner of a closed hazardous waste landfill in their midst and instead force the owner to consider clean up measures that may be more costly.

The 2 1/2 -hour hearing on the permit application by Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., which owns the closed landfill on Solley Road, was peppered with applause for permit opponents. More than a dozen nearby property owners and elected officials challenged assertions that the Houston waste company made on the safety of the water it seeks to discharge into an intermittent stream that leads to Marley Creek.

Browning-Ferris Industries is seeking the permit from the Maryland Department of the Environment, which had favored granting it.

The agency is unlikely to decide for at least a month because officials said they had new information to review. Much of it was provided by John Blumenthal, who fears his adjacent property is being contaminated by ground water that contains hazardous solvents.

He wants to build 738 houses on the land and said the proposed discharge of 144,000 gallons per day that would cross his property would wash out wetlands, change the topography and probably further pollute Marley Creek.

Elected officials, who noted that Marley Creek has been closed to swimmers since 1965, said they did not want the state to do anything that might jeopardize dredging, clean up and other measures they are seeking in the next year or so at the creek.

Area residents were surprised by much of the information presented by Mr. Blumenthal, his engineer, environmental consultant and lawyer, who alleged that Browning-Ferris Industries was misleading the state agency and offering conflicting numbers. They wondered what weight the state would give their concerns if they were relying on personal observations instead of the developer's data. And they wanted to know how heavily the agency relied on data supplied by Browning-Ferris.

"Don't you investigate?" Marge Huggins demanded of Maryland Department of the Environment officials.

"We can't think of everything," Jeffrey Rein, administrator of the Wastewater Discharge Permit Program, told her.

"You should be thinking of a lot more," Mrs. Huggins replied.

The landfill was closed in 1982, but protective environmental measures there are failing. Contaminated ground water is moving west toward Marley Creek at better than twice the rate state officials anticipated.

A second plume of contamination was discovered this spring. The clay cap that is supposed to seal the two trash hills is cracked and parts have slid, prompting the company to seek permission from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and Anne Arundel County to regrade and reseal the mounds.

Browning-Ferris' current permit application stems from yet another problem. Last year's efforts to strip solvents from contaminated ground water and inject treated water into the aquifer have not worked because the water cannot be put back into the ground.

Del. Joan Cadden, whose district includes the site, said the state should demand that Browning-Ferris revisit the more costly alternative of pumping the treated water to a county water treatment plant.

Carl Hackmann told state officials they should require Browning-Ferris to excavate the dump site and build a lined landfill for the trash. Drums of solvents and acids, if they are not leaking now, eventually will, he said.

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