Dorsey neighbors angry over composting yard

June 09, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Furious neighbors of the state's only regional yard-waste composting facility have besieged the Maryland Department of the Environment in recent weeks, complaining that resumed operation of the Howard County yard has brought unbearable stenches.

Residents have called in more than 100 complaints within the past 30 days, prompting state officials to re-evaluate their earlier position not to issue violation notices while the Dorsey yard's operator tried to fix odor problems that had led to 14 citations.

After more than two months, "we believe sufficient time has passed," said Quentin Banks, MDE spokesman.

Environmental officials hope to meet this week with Maryland Environmental Service, a quasi-public agency that runs the yard, to try to resolve the problems, Banks said.

The yard, financed last summer through a $5.9 million bond issue, serves Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties.

Nearby Lennox Park residents, who say the odor is so fetid that it chokes them, have grown impatient with MES. And as their anger has grown, so have their complaints.

"I think they figured we were a bunch of old hillbillies down by the railroad tracks, and we weren't going to say anything. Well, they were wrong," said Don Davis, who lives on the Anne Arundel County side of the yard.

The 56-acre facility is in Howard County, just over the Anne Arundel line. Depending on which way the breeze is blowing, residents in both counties have complained about the smell, mostly in the evening. Unable to open windows at night, they now are fearful that the heat and haze will make the stench unbearable in the summer.

The neighborhoods are filled with flyers from activists telling residents how to lodge complaints and from private companies advertising household air purifiers.

The pungent odor aggravates allergies, makes people sick to their stomach and causes respiratory problems, neighbors say. Nancy Couch, who lives on the Howard County side, has suffered increasing allergy problems she attributes to the decomposing vegetation.

Residents have taken to fleeing their homes, wearing filter masks and stuffing towels under doorways to keep away from the odor.

Their assessment of the yard is directly opposite that of James Peck, MES director.

"I think the operation has gone pretty well overall," he said Friday.

Nevertheless, he said, if he had his way, he would not have located a composting facility 100 yards from homes. MES operates other sites, but they are relatively isolated.

The latest stench is a temporary problem caused by the addition of spring grass clippings and the stirring up of last fall's leaves. Summer will be better, he said.

"It's one continuous excuse and story after another. I am tired of it," said Russell Rzemien, who lives on the Anne Arundel side of the facility. He is especially worried about a daughter who has asthma. While materials in decomposing yard waste are not unique, the concentration may be aggravating health problems, he said.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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