Dozens protest landfill expansion Wicomico rubble pit sits above a large aquifer

March 11, 1997|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

HEBRON -- A group of area residents protested the planned expansion of a rubble pit that sits over a large aquifer in rural Wicomico County yesterday, chanting, carrying signs and briefly blocking 20-ton trucks from entering the facility.

"We ask that this landfill be shut down, in Jesus' name," protester Phil Webster prayed during a brief ceremony before the trucks -- most bearing out-of-state license plates -- began rumbling into the rubble pit just after 7 a.m. Webster, his wife, their four children and about four dozen other concerned residents marched around the pit's entrance on West Road for more than an hour.

Plans to expand the 12-acre facility to 50 acres or more have struck a nerve in this Lower Eastern Shore county, prompting citizen outrage and a cease-and-desist order issued by the county attorney to the rubble pit operator yesterday.

The rubble site, until recently operated by and for a local construction company, sits above the Eastern Shore's largest aquifer, an ancient underground river called the Paleochannel. It supplies drinking water to about 30,000 people in Salisbury and nearby communities.

The pit has operated for about two decades. A local construction company, J. Roland Dashiell & Sons, was granted a special exception in 1975 to use an old pit for its construction refuse, county officials said.

Since then, the pit has been granted extensions that allowed it to continue operating. But the property has been sold recently, and the operators are bringing in debris from other states.

"It went from a local individual to a multistate firm," said Steve Lewis, one of the residents who organized yesterday's protest. Yesterday before 8 a.m., eight trucks, each carrying 20 tons of material, entered the rubble pit. Four had New Jersey plates, three were from Pennsylvania and one was from Millington, Md.

Wallace Putkowski, Dashiell Realty vice president who was present during yesterday's protest, said the facility receives about 20 or 25 trucks a day, and that number could rise to 100 in the summer.

"We've been upfront," he said. The company plans to add a liner to the site to protect the aquifer, he said.

Residents and county officials said Dashiell & Sons had asked the county to shift the 1975 special exception to a subsidiary called J. Roland Dashiell Realty Co., which operates the rubble pit. The subsidiary realty company has been sold to Annapolis-based Garnett Inc., said Wicomico County Council President Philip L. Tilghman. Garnett operates a multistate landfill and recycling operation, he said.

The real estate transactions and the way the property is being used by dump trucks from other states violate the original special exception that permitted only construction debris from Dashiell construction work, Tilghman and others said yesterday.

Garnett President Blake Van Leer defended the company's plans to expand the site, saying the county has known about the planned expansion for months and had offered no resistance until recently.

"We informed the county every step of the way about what we're doing," Van Leer said yesterday.

"There was no deception by Dashiell, and there's been no deception on my part," Van Leer said. He characterized the opposition as political.

"We are doing what's right," he said of the company's plan to expand the rubble site.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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