The Maryland Department of the Environment has given the owners of the closed and leaking hazardous waste landfill on Marley Neck tentative approval to reseal its trash hills using shredded tires and sludge.
But the department has yet to approve an unpopular plan that would allow use of sludge as fertilizer for the grass that will cover the Solley Road site.
The move to reseal the landfill came after it was discovered that cancer-causing chemicals and other poisons are seeping out of the landfill and into ground water. Contamination is moving at about 100 feet a year from the 146-acre site toward Marley Creek.
The owner of the landfill, Browning-Ferris Industries, wants to reseal the mounds of waste by recompacting the clay cover, topping that with vinyl, 9 inches of shredded tires for drainage and 18 inches of dirt and sludge to grow grass.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency agreed to that last year, after saying tests showed the remains of the steel belts in the tire chips would not puncture the plastic.
Michael Deyling, a BFI consultant, said the tire chips would scratch the vinyl, but an occasional tiny puncture would be inconsequential.
S. John Blumenthal, who is suing BFI for $100 million, claiming it has contaminated his adjacent 145 acres so that he cannot build a townhouse community there, thinks otherwise.
"There is no way those tires aren't going to shred . . . the vinyl," Mr. Blumenthal said.
Mr. Blumenthal and other property owners maintain that the chipped tires and sludge are waste. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), however, has said that turning tires into chips allows them to be recycled and that sludge is commonly used as fertilizer.
The department will hold a hearing on the recapping permit application at 7 p.m. March 9 at the Orchard Beach Fire Hall, 7941 Solley Road.
BFI applied for the sludge permit last year, but its plans were not approved by the department and the company was told to redraft the permit application.
MDE spokesman Quentin Banks said tentative approval of the resealing plan covers use of sludge because agency officials expect to grant the sludge permit.
But Ruth Bell, former vice president of the Lombardee Beach Community Association, disagreed with that logic. "That is sort of putting the cart before the horse."
BFI has appeased most neighbors who believed the sludge would smell offensive. The company promised it would buy and haul in only as much sludge as it would use each day, and "before they leave for the day, it would be tilled in," said Mrs. Bell, who owns about 14 acres across Solley Road from the landfill.
"I'm sure that they know by now that if there is an odor problem, I will let them know about it. And it will be addressed. They will not leave it around fermenting," she said.
Mr. Blumenthal has appealed Anne Arundel County's granting of a grading permit for the recapping. The Board of Appeals will hear that issue at 4 p.m. Feb. 17 in the County Council Room of the Arundel Center in Annapolis. Many of the issues will be the same at both the county and state hearings.
" This is supposed to be a closed hazardous waste landfill, and by bringing in this waste stream it's the same as reopening the landfill," Mr. Blumenthal said. "Their proposed solution has many engineering flaws, and it's a threat to the environment."
The county permit does not mention sludge. But the company could seek to amend that permit once it receives the state permit for sludge.
Another area BFI is trying to address is the treatment and disposal of the contaminated ground water. The company could need to treat and dispose of 144,000 gallons daily.
Its efforts to pump out and treat water and then inject it back into the ground failed last year, and the company had to truck it away and pay for disposal at Baltimore plants.
On Jan. 30, BFI started a 60-day test of a new re-injection well, Mr. Deyling said. It doubled the amount of water it was pulling out of the ground to 30 gallons a minute, and all of that is going back into the ground, he said.
As a backup in case the re-injection doesn't work, BFI will apply to Anne Arundel County "within the next week" to ask that it accept the water into its Cox Creek waste treatment plant, Mr. Deyling said.
County public works officials last year told BFI Anne Arundel does not want the treated water.
BFI is trying to mend fences with its neighbors. It established a toll-free telephone line for calls about the Solley Road site and compiled its permit information at the Riviera Beach library branch.