City Hall dumps on west side

June 07, 1999|By Kevin Zucker

DESPITE widespread neighborhood opposition, city officials appear to be moving ahead with plans to expand a landfill in West Baltimore, destabilizing neighborhoods with many longtime homeowners.

This egregious action began two years ago when Potts and Callahan Inc., a local construction company, purchased 27 acres of an old limestone quarry along Gwynns Falls Park, near Hilton Parkway and Edmondson Avenue.

Subsequently, the city quietly issued a permit for 4.5 acres of the site to be used as a landfill in 1997. Potts and Callahan began dumping truckloads of debris there in August. Now the city appears ready to grant a permit that would allow most of the site to be used for dumping.

This amounts to nothing less than environmental racism, with poor, black neighborhoods targeted for the noise, traffic and accompanying pollution of such a site.

Of course, this area was selected because area residents were expected to accept it without a fight. But that hasn't happened.

Residents and environmentalists across the city have organized to fight this environmental abomination. At 5 p.m. today, there will be a march on City Hall to protest this lack of regard for the lives and property of scores of taxpaying citizens.

People who don't live in the affected neighborhood -- or even the city itself -- should be concerned about this landfill for many reasons, including the precedent it sets and the fact that it promises to be a noisy and dirty neighbor to the 14-mile-long Gwynns Falls Trail, which was intended as a quiet peaceful path through what is today gorgeous wilderness terrain.

It will be impossible to enjoy the greenway, the first phase of which opened Saturday, with the roar of bulldozers and trucks -- not to mention their accompanying dust -- drowning out the sounds of nature.

Neighborhood leaders didn't learn of the landfill until February 1998, when they were invited by city officials to tour the site. Some 60 residents attended that meeting and clearly expressed outrage over the planned expansion. But an official with Potts and Callahan and several city planners told the residents that it was too late to stop the landfill.

Since then, city and company officials and residents have met many times to resolve key differences, but the fact remains that the city clearly plans to go along with the company's plan to expand the site.

City officials use the euphemism "clean-fill" to describe the landfill, claiming that only "clean" materials will be deposited there. But they say construction materials, including rubble from the hundreds of rowhouses the city is tearing down, may end up there, too.

How can we know that such debris won't contain lead paint, asbestos and other such hazardous materials?

Also, expansion of the landfill would mean that 100 to 140 trucks a day would navigate the narrow, congested streets in this residential area, which has several nearby schools. What parents would want their children walking to school in such dangerous traffic?

Many longtime homeowners see their property values plummeting as a result of the landfill.

We're marching on City Hall to help persuade our elected officials to stop expansion of the landfill.

We are a city that reads. We're reading the writing on the wall: Our neighborhoods are at stake.

Kevin Zucker is a member of the Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. For more information on this effort, call 410-362-6240.

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