No regional plan, but maybe a toilet Scenes of change: Northern Landfill reflects how trash export, recycling have calmed fears.

January 08, 1998

TALK ABOUT YOUR multi-purpose center. Across Route 140 from the Reese and Community Volunteer Fire Company, east of Westminster, is Carroll County's Northern Landfill.

But that, as the entrance sign informs you, is only one of the functions of this 220-acre spread.

It is also the Recycling Center.

And the Hap Baker Firearms Facility.

Some places may build golf courses or parks on landfills. In Carroll County, the need is for a public firing range.

Recycling here means reuse. At the Swap Shop shed, you might find an old TV, a serviceable skateboard, castoff toilets, an assortment of split-seam recliners. And lots of other stuff, all of which comes strictly without warranty a sign on the building explains.

The shop opened two years ago as an alternative to a controversial plan to let scavengers mine the landfill itself for usable castoff items.

Carroll has been highly successful in recycling waste -- more than 35 percent of trash collected, against a state standard of 15 percent. The county's recycling figure should rise even higher, with extra state credit for burning trash in waste-to-energy incinerators.

Northern Landfill is the county's only operating landfill, receiving more than 100,000 tons of refuse annually. Ten years old, it was expected to run out of space by the end of this year, unless an expensive new "cell" was excavated.

Carroll shares a problem common to the rest of the metro region: running out of landfill space with scant hope of opening a new one (under today's environmental rules) or finding a neighboring county for a joint venture.

Like a growing number of jurisdictions, Carroll found the economical solution, at least for now, was to ship Northern's trash out of state, to a commercial waste incinerator in Pennsylvania that welcomes it (for a price).

Out of sight, out of mind -- except for the transfer station to be built at Northern for trucks of Waste Management Inc. to collect the trash, sort it for recycling and haul it to a York County, Pa., incinerator. And the $3.5 million annual bill.

Carroll officials wanted to pursue co-composting, to turn trash into potting soil. There was no regional interest in sharing the costly project, as neighboring Frederick County found out a few years earlier.

There doesn't seem much talk about a regional tack to conserve money and the environment in solid waste disposal, as was heard a few years ago. It's easier politically to ship the problem elsewhere. The only folks talking about reusing resources at the Northern Landfill these days are at the Swap Shop, perhaps looking for a servicable toilet.

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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