Opponents file lawsuit over compost yard Nearby residents demand that center be closed

August 13, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Opponents of the regional composting center on the Howard -Anne Arundel County line filed a $22 million lawsuit yesterday against the owner, operator, the state and counties that created the facility, demanding that it be closed because it is making them ill.

Owners of eight Lennox Park homes in both counties allege that the stench of rotting leaves and grass from the composting center is so pungent that it threatens their health and has devalued their homes.

If the yard is not closed, the governments should be forced to buy the homes, said the lawsuit, which was filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Residents have been contending for more than seven months that a yard waste compost center never should have been placed so close to residential areas.

"The question is, can the problem be fixed," said Donald Davis, who lives on the Anne Arundel side of the compost yard. "And the answer is no, the problem cannot be fixed. It still stinks, and it will continue to stink. That facility was put in the wrong place."

The 56-acre facility is a unique project by Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties.

The yard is in the Dorsey area of Howard County and operated by Maryland Environmental Services (MES), a quasi-public agency.

Nearby residents have lodged hundreds of foul-odor complaints with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Although the department has issued 14 citations this year, state officials have said they are noting the complaints but are trying to work with Maryland Environmental Services to solve the problem instead of writing violation notices.

MES maintains it has been trying to fix problems that started when the yard accepted tons of leaves last fall before it was operational. It has suffered a series of setbacks, including vandalism.

On Aug. 1, MES sent state environmental officials a letter explaining improvements it has made and plans to make at what it called an "important project for all the citizens of Maryland."

Of the defendants who could be reached, none had any comment because they had not seen the lawsuit.

Besides the lawsuit, a zoning petition has been filed in Howard County by Brian Moore, who also lives on the Anne Arundel County side. Moore is asking the Board of Appeals to determine if the compost yard violates county zoning laws.

Howard County officials contend the compost center is a government function that does not require a zoning exception.

But the residents contend that position is questionable public policy at best.

"Morally, is it right?" Davis said. "No, it is wrong. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should."

Pub Date: 8/13/96

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