UNICORN -- A Baltimore County trash company has applied to operate a rubble fill in a 58-acre soybean field here, uphill from the only warm-water fish hatchery on the Eastern Shore and across the street from an old county landfill.
Residents of this dot on the map on the way to Delaware are furious, fearing irreparable damage to Unicorn Lake from contamination,and from huge trucks roaring down narrow roads spilling trash and causing property values to plummet.
"There's going to be noise, dirt, tractor-trailers going by. It's going to stink and everything," said Allen Boyles, who lives a few yards from the proposed rubble fill. "What's my house going to be worth? Nothing. I wouldn't buy it."
County planners said the pie-shaped tract at Glanding and Peters Corner roads,south of Millington, meets the legal requirements for a rubble fill, but said they sympathize with residents.
"My heart goes out to them," said Sue Ann Hyer-Morgan, chief of the county's development review team. "I can't imagine living where every morning you wake up to that beeeep, beeeep" of trucks signaling they are backing up.
Officials at Days Cove Reclamation Co., the White Marsh firm that would operate the rubble fill, said they are misunderstood.
Residents fear a behemoth accepting construction trash from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but that isn't what Days Cove is about, said Ken Binnix, the executive vice president.
"We're a small, privately held company," he said. "We're targeting the smaller companies that take roll-offs from the construction site."
Some of the rubble would come from Delaware, Binnix conceded, but 80 percent of it would come from the surrounding four Eastern Shore counties.
Loretta Walls, leader of the opposition, is skeptical.
"Once they get their foot in the door, who knows what can happen?" she said.
The fight over this site is the sixth of its kind on the Shore in the past decade, where trash companies are looking for cheap land and residents are trying to keep haulers at bay.
Residents packed three Queen Anne's County Board of Appeals hearings this fall, each dragging on for hours. They tied helium balloons to high tension lines that run through the property to demonstrate how high the rubble would pile up and sought help from their congressman, Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, a Republican.
The Hunting Ridge rubble fill in Dorchester County is a "large-scale, privately owned and operated rubble landfill" on the Eastern Shore, Gilchrest told the appeals board. "We do not want a second one."
The board is to issue a decision at a public hearing next month.
Springview Inc., the local company hat owns the land less than three miles east of U.S. 301, applied successfully in 1994 to have the county commissioners put it in the county's 10-year solid waste management plan.
A small portion of the property, which is next to a rail line, is an abandoned sand-and-gravel pit. Queen Anne's County policy says a rubble fill is an appropriate use of old mining operations.
There was no opposition to including the property in the waste management plan at the time, but it was because no one noticed the legal notices in the back of the local newspaper announcing the application, said Walls, president of the Millington Quality of Life Preservation Council.
"Who reads the back of the paper?" she said.
In its application, Days Cove said it would accept 850 cubic yards of rubble a day, 70 percent of which would be demolition debris, and impose strict controls on the trucks it accepts and the route they take to get there.
There is a growing market for a rubble fill in the area as new subdivisions march south from Wilmington across Delaware and north from the Bay Bridge in Maryland, said Binnix. "We're trying to capture that."
The company estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 gallons of contaminated water would leach from the rubble and be contained in holding ponds until it can be trucked away.
It is that water that most worries residents.
If any of it leaks, it could damage Unicorn Branch, which meanders through a moss-covered glade under oaks and poplar trees; or the lake, an old mill pond where prickly hornwort and slender pondweed, both endangered plants, grow, said Richard Klein, an environmental consultant who testified for the residents.
In addition to trout, the stream supports chain pickerel and largemouth bass, and the state recently built a fish ladder to allow river herring to travel upstream from the dam that created Unicorn Mill Pond.
"There are no other streams in Queen Anne's County, nor anywhere else on the Eastern Shore capable of supporting trout year round," Richard K. Schaefer, eastern regional manager of freshwater fisheries for the state Depart- ment of Natural Resources, wrote to Walls.
"Ground-water contamination could ruin Unicorn Branch forever," he wrote.
To reassure residents, Days Cove operators point to their spotless record in Baltimore County, where they have operated rubble fills in Gunpowder State Park.