Clearing the air over compost plant Regionalism: Tri-county facility in Dorsey was right to dump operator for odors.

March 05, 1996

THE OVERWHELMING STENCH from a composting facility on the Anne Arundel-Howard county border finally forced the Maryland Environmental Service to halt its contract with the company that was operating the plant. Replacing Browning Ferris Industries is a gesture which could not have come sooner to those who suffered because of the company's poor planning.

Nearby residents complained that the odor from compost allowed to pile up over three months had sickened their children and their pets. Since the plant began accepting yard waste in November, the Maryland Department of the Environment has cited the yard for odor violations 13 times. It is a shame that a project with a laudable mission -- to recycle yard waste on a regional basis -- got off to a horrid start. The plant is a joint venture of Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

Residents, especially those living along Ohio Avenue in Dorsey, have probably reminisced more than once these past months about the good old days when their yard waste was simply buried in a local landfill. Composting is better for the environment but that's little consolation to those who have to smell three tons of rotting leaves whenever they step outside.

According to MES Director James W. Peck, the agency was taking over operation of the plant this past weekend and has adopted a series of steps to lessen the odors. The plant has stopped accepting yard waste temporarily but is expected to do so again next month. The remedies include planting trees along the county border to shield the yard and churning the compost more frequently to prevent rank gases from building up.

Common sense was all BFI needed to realize that failing to turn and aerate a three-ton pile of leaves, grass clippings and yard waste would lead to problems. The company merely allowed the pile to mount while waiting for the plant to be completed. The yard is a valuable resource for the counties and should be treated as such. It's a rare tri-county venture in a region where cross-jurisdictional cooperation has often been long on talk, short on action. In the past, jurisdictions were unwilling to receive waste from other areas. Overcoming that obstacle was, ironically, the easy part. After such an agreement, composting should not be difficult.

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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