Residents still angry over water More aid requested at polluted landfill site

November 16, 1995|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,SUN STAFF

Angry neighbors of the contaminated Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville say County Executive Charles I. Ecker's proposal to help pay for safe public drinking water has only partially slaked their thirst for county financial aid.

"The whole county caused our problem, and I think the whole county needs to go the last little bit," said Al Starr, whose house is just off the landfill's northwestern corner -- its most contaminated area.

Mr. Starr was among about 100 residents who attempted during a raucous Monday night community meeting to goad Mr. Ecker and their county councilman, Republican Charles C. Feaga, into picking up the entire $4,100 in water hook-up charges for each home.

Mr. Ecker proposed having the county pay for about $2,200 with residents paying the remaining $1,900.

felt that the county shouldn't have to pick up anything because there wasn't a single well contaminated," he told residents.

The executive also said that after the county begins pumping contaminated ground water to the surface and treating it -- a process that may continue for decades -- the pollution won't spread to neighboring residential wells. So far, there have been no verifiable instances of toxic landfill chemicals spreading to those wells.

An outcry from residents this summer and even from some members of the County Council persuaded Mr. Ecker to propose reducing the cost of water connection for 307 properties that surround the landfill.

The lack of appreciation for Mr. Ecker's proposal prompted Mr. ++ Feaga to both support and enrage residents Monday.

"It was not easy to get $10.5 million" to build lines, a water tower and pumping system for Marriottsville, Mr. Ecker said.

Considering that expense, plus the executive's proposal, "you're talking about $30,000 a house, so don't get too excited about this last little bit."

Mr. Feaga also spoke of people who he thought were too far from the landfill to be demanding free water hookup from the county, calling them "good people, but you're a little bit selfish."

Ron Lovelace, who lives off Route 99, shot back angrily:

"How do you say that we're selfish? Do you have a landfill in your backyard?"

The animosity toward Mr. Feaga reached such a crescendo that Mr. Ecker leaped to his defense, shouting and pointing at the councilman, "It's me [who's responsible]. I did it. He's innocent."

However, Mr. Feaga did satisfy many residents with his pledge to submit legislation to the County Council to pay for all the cost of connection.

He warned that fellow council members would be reluctant to put up the additional $583,000 with the county in the throes of a budget crisis.

As of yesterday, Mr. Ecker had not changed his proposal, and Mr. Feaga said he would introduce his legislation in December or January.

And yesterday Mr. Feaga also returned the favor Mr. Ecker did for him Monday.

"You've got to remember that Chuck has gone a very, very long ways on this," Mr. Feaga said.

That includes agreeing to pipe the water in the first place, agreeing to reduce residents' costs by bringing water lines to within 150 feet of each house and then proposing to pick up more than half the connection cost, he said.

Mr. Ecker said residents would have the last word on another burning issue around the landfill, a proposal to build a model airplane park there.

The proposal has infuriated residents who believe they already have enough in the way of county facilities.

Drawn up in 1983, the proposal calls for the construction of two 600-foot grass runways, a parking area and a small temporary building on a concrete slab. The radio-controlled model aircraft would fly within a 1,750-foot radius and would not leave the landfill property, said parks chief John Byrd.

But Mr. Starr, one of Alpha Ridge's neighbors, won much applause Monday night with this response to the idea: "We've given up enough for the county. We have your landfill, we're going to get your water tower. We're not going to put up with your model airplane park."

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