Clearing the air over fly-ash Anne Arundel County: Neighbors worry about effects of BGE waste disposal.

March 25, 1997

EVEN THOUGH BGE has been burying fly-ash at its Brandon Woods Energy Park for more than 15 years, the utility company faces an unusually fierce fight to continue its disposal plans at that site in the northeast corner of Anne Arundel County. Property owners living across the street are waging a vigorous fight to deny the company the special exception it needs.

For many years, BGE did not need a special exception to bury fly-ash at Brandon Woods. From 1982 to '94, BGE only needed a conditional use permit to dispose of coal ash in industrial zones. In 1994, the Anne Arundel County Council revamped the law.

BGE must now obtain a special exception and comply with new rules on setbacks and buffer zones for its future disposal sites.

Fly-ash disposal is a fundamental problem for BGE. It burns about five million tons of coal annually at its Brandon Shores and A.H. Wagner power plants, producing about 550,000 tons of fly-ash that has to go somewhere. Brandon Woods Energy Park was built on dumped ash. Seventeen office, warehouse and distribution buildings, covering more than 1 million square feet and employing about 850 people, have been built and occupied there.

BGE wants to continue its dumping and industrial park development. But Solley Road residents, who live across the street from the proposed disposal site, believe enough fly-ash has been buried in their midst. Ironically, BGE also is seeking other disposal options because it wants to extend the life of this dump site for another 18 or 19 years. Nevertheless, the company maintains it still needs authority to dump at Brandon Woods.

Residents will argue the long-term effects of dumping ash are uncertain. What is known now suggests the material is benign. Although ash contains four times as much heavy metals as soil, the amount is minuscule and far below toxicity levels. BGE also makes a convincing case that tests show, after disposing of 3.6 million tons of ash, this has not affected residents' drinking water or polluted nearby Nabbs Creek or underground aquifers

Opponents deserve to make their case at the Board of Appeals, but they should not be surprised if BGE obtains permission to continue burying fly ash at Brandon Woods.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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