County allows BGE to put coal ash at Brandon Woods Community hails ruling, which followed long battle with utility

December 10, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

The county has given Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. permission to use 1.6 million cubic yards of coal ash as fill at the last of three sections of its Brandon Woods industrial park property.

The decision is being hailed as a victory by the neighboring Solley Road community, which has waged a running battle with the utility over the use of the property.

The ruling is the first by Anne Arundel County Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox under a 1994 county law that requires BGE to win a special exception to fill a site with combustion ash.

In the decision filed Friday, Wilcox made BGE's compromises with the neighborhood conditions of his approval, advised the community that it should bring complaints about violations to him and revived the issue of whether fly ash should be subjected to closer state environmental scrutiny.

"Absolutely, it is a victory for the community," said environmental activist Mary Rosso, president of the Coalition of Communities and Citizens Against Flyash, formed four years ago. "It's a major accountability that we never had before. They are going to have to make sure that they do it right."

Until everyone in the organization sees Wilcox's ruling, no decision will be made whether to appeal it, Rosso said.

The ash, a combination of chunks and fine fly ash dust, is a byproduct of coal burning at two nearby BGE power plants, Brandon Shores and Wagner Point. The utility trucks the ash to Brandon Woods, where it is developing a business and industrial park over the fill.

BGE and its Constellation Properties subsidiary, which is developing the site, will not appeal the ruling.

"We are satisfied with it," said Joe Schreiber, project manager. "It's not without conditions but the conditions that are stipulated in the order we can live with."

The ruling resolves in the neighborhood's favor a long-simmering dispute between the neighborhood and BGE over the widening of Solley Road, which separates the ash fill from homes.

For years, residents have insisted that the 65-foot-wide swath for widening the road should come from the utility's side; otherwise many of them would lose half their front yards for the project.

After promising to go along with the community, BGE did not correctly document the property it would deed to the county, raising the suspicions of the neighborhood.

But on Nov. 6, BGE deeded the right of way to Anne Arundel County. That is incorporated into Wilcox's ruling.

Wilcox also included in his ruling a promise that he will take up any noise and dust complaints, leaving open the possibility that he would stop the filling operation if BGE failed to live up to the order.

Pub Date: 12/10/96

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