Earth to Gray? Councilman plays to fears over ecology-minded disposal alternatives.

April 19, 1996

HOWARD COUNTY Councilman C. Vernon Gray's reliance on networking via his car phone may make him seem the quintessential '90s man. But his impatience toward environmental issues paints a different picture. Faced with potential solutions to solid waste problems in Howard, the 2nd District councilman has maintained a firm stance against progress.

When odors from a new composting facility in Dorsey forced the Maryland Environmental Service to temporarily close it earlier this year, Mr. Gray insisted that even under new management the undertaking would likely fail. Trying to curry favor with Dorsey residents who were understandably fed up with their smelly neighbor, he talked tough, saying the plant might have to be shut permanently.

While the plant was poorly run at first, few could deny the need for a composting facility or fault the wisdom of its regional approach. The plant is expected to process 30,000 tons of yard waste a year from Howard, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and save 100,000 cubic yards of landfill space. MES has since worked to control odors better.

Yet another recent effort to reduce the volume of refuse and encourage recycling drew a skeptical response from Mr. Gray. When Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker this week told the county council that he was looking for volunteers to test a new procedure, whereby residents would be charged per volume of solid waste as they are for water and sewer use, Mr. Gray quipped, "You can stay out of the 2nd District."

Other council members at least were willing to say they would try to make the new proposal work, politically unpalatable though it may be.

Mr. Gray says he harbors some serious questions. Indeed, many details are unresolved: What will be done with trash from apartments or townhouses which share waste bins? How much will it cost to outfit Howard garbage trucks with weighing devices and trash cans with bar codes?

Mr. Gray insists the county needs to recycle more. That is indeed part of the solution. Howard County also needs to come up with cost-effective plans to decrease the amount of trash. Mr. Gray is playing to the crowd. This won't help achieve either goal.

Pub Date: 4/19/96

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