Time Running Out For County Decision On Trash Disposal

Commissioners Weigh Competing Proposals

April 23, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Carroll's public works director told the County Commissioners yesterday that they must decide how to deal with the county's trash -- now and in the future -- within the next two months.

The commissioners are weighing proposals from two nationally known disposal companies as alternatives to dumping trash at landfills.

J. Michael Evans, the county's public works director, said that time is running out because both options involve time-consuming processes for getting county and state permits and because county landfill space is filling up.

"Cell three at the Northern Landfill is not built, and we have a limited amount of time before cell two is used up," Evans said yesterday.

Cell two will be at capacity in eight months, and the minimum bid to build a third cell is $3.5 million, he said.

How to handle the county's growing garbage problem has been a continuing source of controversy among boards of commissioners for more than 10 years.

Last week, the commissioners listened to proposals from Bedminster Bioconversions Corp. of Cherry Hill, N.J., and Waste Management Inc. of Oak Brook, Ill.

Bedminster, which uses a process called co-composting to turn sludge and trash into potting soil in three days, has proposed building a $41 million co-composting facility.

According to preliminary estimates presented to the commissioners yesterday by Evans and Deputy Public Works Director Gary Horst, the tipping fees charged to the county would begin at $44.05 per ton in 2000, rise to $53.21 in 2020 and drop to $20.48 per ton in 2025.

"Some of these preliminary numbers suggest that despite the initial investment in co-composting, eight or 10 years down the road it might become less of an annual cost than reliance on a [trash] transfer facility," Horst said.

Horst said the numbers are based on Bedminster's assumption that the county could charge other jurisdictions $36 a ton to convert their sludge, and then sell the compost for $20 a ton. Horst stressed that these numbers are highly variable.

He said that Howard, Frederick and Harford counties are paying $60, $45 and $18, respectively, to dispose of their sludge. Current market research shows that compost is selling for $7 to $11 per ton.

Under the plan submitted to the commissioners by Waste Management, the company would build a 20,000-square-foot building at Carroll's Northern Landfill, where trash would be dumped temporarily and then exported to incinerators or super-sized landfills in other states.

The company would charge the county an initial rate of $41.71 per ton in 2000, which would rise to $125.07 by 2025.

The contract with Waste Management would allow the county to buy the trash transfer station for $645,000 in 10 years.

According to research by the county public works office, Waste Management's waste disposal plan would cost the county about $5 million annually in 2000, and Bedminster's yearly cost would be about $6 million. By 2030, Waste Management's costs are projected at $17 million, and Bedminster's costs would be about $8 million.

Evans said the main difference between the two waste disposal options is that all of Waste Management's costs are operational and subject to inflation, while Bedminster's operating and capital costs are split about evenly.

The commissioners decided yesterday to meet separately with Bedminster and Waste Management before deciding between the two plans.

On other waste disposal-related matters they voted to:

Sign an option to purchase the 117-acre Hurwitz property for $541,000, with 120 days to exercise the option. Twenty acres of the land, adjacent to the Northern Landfill, could be used to construct the required waste disposal facilities associated with the two options under consideration. Evans said the property includes about 25 acres needed for the proposed Westminster bypass.

Extend the county's recycling contract with Waste Management for one year.

Close the east cell at the Hoods Mill Landfill.

Pub Date: 4/23/97

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