Trash station blamed for odors in D.C. Company wants to build similar operation in Elkridge

'A lot of distress'

Neighbors fTC vexed by Browning-Ferris transfer facility

March 03, 1997|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- No one wants trash in their neighborhood.

That simple sentiment explains the bitter fights that trash-transfer stations can engender. And a visit to a transfer station that opened in the Brentwood community in Northeast Washington three years ago shows that the troubled relations can continue.

"It has caused us a lot of distress," Ruth J. Wilson, Brentwood's community association president, said of the neighborhood's trash-transfer station. "The smell that emanates from there is terrible. Rats are going to run all of us out of this neighborhood."

The operator of the Brentwood trash-transfer station -- Browning-Ferris Industries Inc. -- wants to build a transfer station off U.S. 1 in Elkridge.

Elkridge residents fear they will end up with Wilson's complaints.

BFI would use the Elkridge facility to consolidate trash in preparation for its shipment from Howard County and other jurisdictions to landfills elsewhere.

Today, Howard begins doing just that -- but using another waste-management company that runs a trash-transfer station in Annapolis Junction in Anne Arundel County.

The BFI proposal has led to worries among Elkridge residents about traffic from garbage trucks delivering trash to the proposed facility and from tractor-trailers picking up the waste to take to landfills. They predict the facility would smell.

Elkridge's fears are likely to be voiced this week as the Howard County Zoning Board continues hearings on the proposal.

If BFI's Washington facility is any indication, the fears may be warranted.

Three years after the District of Columbia government approved the facility -- and despite losing an eight-month-long court battle -- Brentwood residents are still drafting and signing petitions urging city officials to close it.

Neighbors complain

Wilson and other neighbors say dust and odors from the Brentwood facility have caused breathing disorders and sinus infections among residents.

She and other residents say constant truck traffic is causing some homes in the area to shift on their foundations and tilt.

"It just isn't healthy," said Anna Price, who also lives nearby. "If I was younger I'd go somewhere else, but there's always something wrong in a community. So, I'll just have to stay and fight it."

The trash-transfer station's offensive odors sometimes smell like something burning or sewage, residents say.

"When it gets hot, we can't hardly put our windows up," said Clarence Kennedy, a neighbor of the facility. "We've been raising the devil about that place for quite a while."

During a visit last week to the Brentwood station, no pungent odor was detected. BFI officials demonstrated how an odor-control and deodorizing system works in conjunction with five ventilators to eliminate smell from the site.

"It's all a stereotype," said Cyril Crocker, BFI's business development manager. "Because we deal with trash, people think every smell comes from this facility."

Neil Davis, BFI's market vice president for Maryland, Delaware, Washington and Virginia, said the community is near industrially zoned land and the odors and truck traffic could be coming from a number of sources. The rats also might come from other sources.

BFI's proposal for Elkridge has been before the Howard County Zoning Board since January. A new series of hearings begins Wednesday. Residents and area businesses who oppose the plan will be able to testify Thursday.

Opponents say a transfer station is not suitable for the busy U.S. 1 corridor, already clogged with housing developments and office and industrial parks.

BFI officials say the Elkridge facility would not be offensive.

'Just like a warehouse'

"The activity there will be so benign," says Jim Stone, BFI's vice president of marketing and sales. "It'll be just like a warehouse."

The station also would have extensive landscaping with a 12-foot berm to hide it, he says.

BFI officials say the U.S. 1 corridor is a good site for the facility because of good road access and because the area is zoned for industrial uses -- like the Brentwood neighborhood.

Brentwood's residential area of old, brick rowhouses is surrounded by industrial parks, an asphalt storage area, numerous auto body shops and a strip shopping center.

The facility there processes 120 truckloads of trash from Washington businesses for 14 hours a day, beginning at 3 a.m., BFI officials say. It also takes some trash from other areas.

It also was a recycling center before that function was transferred four months ago to a site about five miles away in the Capitol Heights area of Prince George's County.

BFI recycling center

BFI's recycling center in Prince George's also has drawn complaints, mostly for its heavy truck traffic.

About 25 trucks a day drop off recyclables -- such as office paper and cardboard -- at the center, where the waste is sorted, bound and prepared for shipment to mills.

The Capitol Heights neighborhood -- hemmed in by railroad tracks to the south and Interstate 295 to the north -- is zoned industrial. The area has factories, a scrap metal yard and a large lot that has been used as a dumping ground.

The community's newest tenant -- BFI -- is welcomed by some, who say the company has cleaned up its site. But others say they have reservations about the BFI facility.

"I am tired of those great big trucks driving around here and shaking my house," said Melvin Moore, a Capitol Heights resident of 33 years, who lives across from the recycling center.

"If I had a choice, I wouldn't have that over there, not next to a residential neighborhood," Moore said. "I don't know why counties let business folks put things like that adjacent to where people live.

"But once they get in there, it's hard to close them down."

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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