Battle at Brandon Shores BGE wants court to reverse order requiring $10 million clay liner at disposal site.

July 15, 1998

BALTIMORE Gas and Electric Co.'s battle to open a third disposal site for the fly ash from its coal-fired plant at Brandon Shores has reached a critical stage.

Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth will decide in several weeks if the county's Board of Appeals made the right call in requiring the utility to construct a clay liner before it begins filling the last section of its nearby business park.

During the past 16 years, BGE has dumped several million tons of fly ash produced by its massive Brandon Shores power plant (( in northern Anne Arundel's Solley area in two adjacent sites.

BGE has always maintained that fly ash, the byproduct of burning coal, is a benign substance. Solley Road residents, who XTC live across the street from the site, are convinced fly ash contains contaminants that could pollute ground water. While they would like BGE to find another disposal site, the residents are demanding that BGE install a liner before it begins to dump the 500,000 tons of ash produced annually.

Both sides presented expert testimony supporting their positions. The Board of Appeals agreed with the community that a barrier -- costing an estimated $10 million -- is needed to prevent water from leaching through the fly ash and reaching the ground water. In addition, the community's environmental experts argued that if the slightly acidic ground water rose into the fly ash fill, it would draw out trace quantities of heavy metals that could contaminate the community's drinking water and, eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.

BGE contends that Maryland's environmental regulations don't require clay liners for fly ash, and the Board of Appeals had no authority to impose installation as a condition for county approval.

At this point, the long-term effects of fly-ash fill on ground water are unknown. Erring on the side of caution would be advisable, but Judge Silkworth could very well decide that the Board of Appeals overstepped its authority. Regardless of his decision, there is likely to be yet another appeal.

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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