IT IS UNFORTUNATE that operators of a regional composting plant in Dorsey have yet to figure out how to avoid bothering neighbors with odors drifting from the fermenting yard waste. Composting, in general, has enormous advantages for the environment, recycling wastes that otherwise would be dumped into costly, unpopular landfills.
But opponents of composting undoubtedly will cite the Maryland Environmental Services (MES) facility on the border of Howard and Anne Arundel counties as fodder for an argument against such operations. The problems could also undercut support for projects such as a residential waste composting facility being proposed in Carroll County.
The MES plant, a joint venture of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, has been a disaster from the start. Neighbors have complained since the plant's November opening about stench from yard waste. They have filed a $22 million lawsuit against the quasi-public agency, the state and the three participating counties. Before MES dropped the facility's initial operator, Browning Ferris Industries, state environmental officials had cited the plant for numerous odor violations.
Now Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he may consider closing the plant in response to a request by Glen Burnie-area delegates James Rzepkowski and Michael Burns. The legislators told of constituents suffering from "an unbearable stench, pollutants in the air that affect their respiratory systems and a great deal of operational noise." They contend the project never should have been built near a residential neighborhood.
The contractual arrangement among the jurisdictions that created the facility may prevent Mr. Ecker from acting unilaterally to close it. But his statement illustrates a growing frustration with continuing problems there. A deodorizing chemical now being sprayed on the waste has only seemed to compound the bad smell, one resident said.
County and state leaders need to press the issue -- while remembering that regional, multi-jurisdiction solutions such as this need to be encouraged. Composting can work. Plants have succeeded elsewhere. MES needs to fix the problem soon -- or risk losing whatever credibility remains.
Pub Date: 10/07/96