County earmarks $15 million for Alpha Ridge landfill cleanup

September 19, 1996|By Craig Timberg | Craig Timberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County officials plan to spend about $15 million to cap the Alpha Ridge landfill, collect the gases it emits and contain the contaminated ground water below it.

They detailed the plan at a public meeting at Mount View Middle School in Marriottsville on Tuesday night, during which about 20 area residents quizzed them and their landfill consultants, Reston, Va.-based SCS Engineers.

Residents have fought for years to close the landfill and control the toxic chemicals that seep from below it. There is no evidence that contamination has reached residential wells, but neighbors say it is only a matter of time.

The two-year county project, which is scheduled to start in April, would cover the top of the landfill with a 68-acre cap made of dirt, vegetation, a net to help drainage and a layer of plastic 40 mm thick.

Once the cap is on, county officials say, rain and other water should not flow into the landfill, which should minimize the leaking of toxic chemicals into the ground water below.

Methane gas, which can be explosive, still will escape from the landfill, but a system of pipes would collect the gas to be burned in a 35-foot-tall pipe.

To control the contamination that already has leaked into ground water, county officials plan to build a system of 20 wells -- each about 150 feet deep -- on the north and east sides of the landfill.

The wells would regularly pull contaminated water out of the ground and into machines that would safely evaporate the toxins into the air. The system would then dump the clean, treated water into the Little Patuxent River, which runs along the northern edge of the landfill.

By pumping contaminated water from the ground, county officials hope to relieve the water pressure that is spreading contamination from the landfill.

The county also plans to spend about $20 million cleaning up its other two landfills, Carrs Mill and New Cut, which are closed.

The cost of the landfill cleanups is one of the main factors that prompted County Executive Charles I. Ecker to initiate a trash collection fee of $125 per household this summer.

Revenue from the fee also will go toward the cost of shipping the county's solid waste out of state for disposal instead of burying it when Alpha Ridge, the county's last open landfill, is closed at the end of this year.

When a resident at Tuesday's meeting suggested that landfills were a bad solution for solid waste, Ecker agreed, saying, "Burying [waste] is going to come back to haunt you, and it costs you."

Pub Date: 9/19/96

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