Solley-area residents are to congregate this afternoon at a local church to preach about their fears of fly ash contamination to an assortment of officials, including U.S. Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest and representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers.
The meeting, which the Republican congressman organized, is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Solley United Methodist Church. Gilchrest said he wants to hear out residents opposed to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s fly ash disposal site across Solley Road from the community.
BGE has been using millions of tons of fly ash as structural fill for a business park it has been building along Solley Road since 1982. Residents have been fighting the disposal, recently pointing to the lack of a continuous natural clay liner under the disposal site. BGE has said that the liner would protect underground water from contamination by leachate, the liquid produced when water passes through the ash.
"We're hearing from the people in the community the fear of the natural clay liner not being thick enough, and the Corps of Engineers is saying that while the clay liner isn't 10 and 20 feet thick in the entire area, it is in the area where ash is being placed," Gilchrest said. "We want to get that resolved."
Corps spokesman Doug Garman said that he, Linda Morrison, chief of the Corps' local regulatory branch, and two engineers will attend the meeting. Gilchrest said he did not invite BGE officials because they have appealed a ruling by the County Board of Appeals requiring the utility to build a $10 million liner on part of their disposal site.
BGE spokeswoman Peggy Mulloy said the company is happy about the meeting.
"We've been for open discussions all along," Mulloy said. "As long as people get to express their ideas, we're not concerned."
Carl Hackmann, spokesman for the Coalition Of Communities And Citizens Against Fly Ash, said he plans to ask the Corps -- which issued BGE permits for a portion of the utility's fly ash disposal -- many questions.
"I'm looking forward to a full and clear explanation from the
Corps of Engineers as to why they issued these permits in the first place," Hackmann said. "We certainly hope to convince them that issuing the permits was a mistake."
John B. Britton, the residents' lawyer, said he, the residents, an air-quality expert from Sudbury, Mass., and a hydrologic expert from New Jersey are prepared to show how BGE's fly ash fill has affected air quality in the neighborhood, how the experts feel the clay layer is not continuous and the possible risks of contamination of ground water.
"The community has specifically asked for reconsideration of the permits the Corps has granted," Britton said. "It's an opportunity for the community to share what technical information they have with everyone in attendance and hope that there is new information that the Corps has not evaluated."
Gilchrest said he also hopes to discuss alternative fly ash disposal sites with the Corps and perhaps even whether there are alternative sources of energy in the future.
"Human activity has an impact on the mechanics of natural processes," Gilchrest said. "And when you ignore blatantly the natural processes for long enough, future generations -- in the not too distant future -- are going to have a very difficult time."