State agency fires BFI over foul compost odor Firm ran facility on Arundel-Howard border

February 21, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

Maryland Environmental Service, which oversees the much-criticized composting yard on the Anne Arundel-Howard border, has fired the company supervising the plant's daily operation after receiving numerous state sanctions for the yard's foul smell.

During a hearing last night before the Anne Arundel County Council, MES director James W. Peck announced that the state agency was severing a $425,000 annual contract with Browning Ferris Industries. MES will take over operations March 2 after buying the composting equipment from BFI.

In addition, Mr. Peck outlined a series of steps to lessen odors from the 56-acre yard that residents on both sides of the county line have described as sickening. The measures include:

* More frequent churning of the compost pile, which, under BFI's supervision, was allowed to build up and trap rank gases.

* Construction of a $550,000 sound wall to guard against noise from machinery.

* Seeding all parts of the property not used for composting.

* Planting 90 cypress trees along the county border to shield the yard from homes, some of which are less than 100 feet from the yard.

"I don't mean that we'll never have another odor," Mr. Peck told the council and roughly 40 residents from neighborhoods bordering the Jessup site. "But they will come up on infrequent occasions."

Since the Howard County composting yard started accepting leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste last November, it has been cited 13 times by the Maryland Department of the Environment for its odors.

Dorsey residents, mostly along Ohio Avenue, have repeatedly complained that the musty, fetid smells made their children and pets sick.

The yard, financed last summer through a $5.9 million bond issue, serves Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. It is not accepting yard waste now, but officials expect it to reopen no later than April 1.

MES officials said last night that the plant opened too early in order to accept leaves and other yard debris last fall. During the last four months, more than 3 tons of yard waste has been dumped at the site.

MES officials acknowledge that BFI allowed the debris to pile up while waiting for construction to finish. The odors have arisen in recent weeks as workers have been spreading the heap into rows, releasing gas trapped in the rotting mound. Mr. Peck said the odors diminish each day.

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