Cleanup ordered at three dumps

Neighbors opposing rubble landfill permit


January 23, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A Gambrills businessman whose efforts to open a new rubble landfill are being fought by the community has been ordered to clean up three dumps discovered recently on a nearby property he has leased for years on the banks of the Little Patuxent River.

Officials of the Maryland Department of the Environment are also checking for possible petroleum-related contamination at the leased property between Capitol Raceway and the river.

James E. Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Excavating and Cunningham Asphalt, has until tomorrow to submit a cleanup plan for the areas where investigators found demolition debris, tires and metal drums, said department spokeswoman Susan Woods. He has until Feb. 22 to remove the debris, Woods said.

Cunningham's lawyer said workers are removing the trash. But an environmental engineer will have to advise his client on how to remove wood that was buried to stabilize a cliff, said Michael Roblyer.

Angry neighbors, who have long opposed Cunningham's efforts to open a new rubble landfill at the north end of the raceway, say the newly discovered dumps are another reason the state should deny his permit application. The dumps are adjacent to Cunningham's old rubble landfill, which is closed.

"We're concerned if that company was responsible for the dumping, how would they treat the proposed landfill?" said Elise G. Rand, a member of the Greater Gambrills Citizens' Pollution Task Force, a group of neighbors organized to oppose the landfill. "What's going on in this area is a complete eyesore."

The state began an investigation last month after receiving an anonymous tip about the three riverside dump sites, officials said. Neighborhood task force members found the sites at about the same time.

State inspectors visited three times, bringing investigators from MDE's hazardous materials and petroleum units. They took a water sample from a nearby sediment pond to test for total petroleum hydrocarbons. Officials are awaiting results.

Residents also took soil and water samples and paid for laboratory testing. They told state officials that their results show a high possibility of soil contamination. One sample was taken from beneath a long pipe that was oozing a black, oily substance with an odor of petroleum, said task force Chairman Barton D. Huxtable.

"We want a full investigation of this dump, and we want them to deny this permit," Huxtable said.

History of old landfill

Cunningham has an extensive history of violations at the old rubble landfill, Huxtable said.

Cunningham opened the old landfill in 1977 without a state permit, which was not unusual at the time, according to Edward Dexter, a chief in MDE's Solid Waste Division. In 1980, the state began a push to regulate landfills, and Cunningham was ordered to stop dumping. He submitted a plan that projected the landfill would be closed by Dec. 15, 1981.

When state inspectors found that he was accepting rubble in 1982 and that he had exceeded his 2.7-acre dumping boundary, they again ordered him to close or apply for a permit. In November 1982, Cunningham got his state permit.

When he asked for a renewal three years later, state officials had found other problems with the operation. Hazardous waste, in the form of a truckload of sandblasting grit with chips of lead paint, had been dumped on the property, they said. Ground-water monitoring wells on the edges of the landfill had collapsed, causing gaps in data, and officials questioned whether there was enough company supervision of the landfill.

An October 1985 order demanded that Cunningham address those problems and perform a site assessment, Dexter said. In May 1987, Anne Arundel County sought an injunction against Cunningham's continued operation of the landfill because its county permit had expired and the required bond had not been posted.

Two years later, Cunningham also allowed his state bond to expire. MDE ordered him to submit proof of his bonding and a plan to close the landfill.

He complied, and the state renewed the permit in October 1989, with several modifications including strict instructions to submit a closeout plan for the landfill 90 days before it was to close.

In 1991 and 1992, the state warned Cunningham that the landfill exceeded its height limitations. In June 1992, state officials sent other warnings on sediment erosion problems.

The landfill closed that month, but Cunningham failed to notify the state or submit closure plans. The state issued a warning, asking for closeout plans. Inspectors visiting the site in October 1992 found that Cunningham had accepted debris at the landfill after it closed.

By April 1994, Cunningham had not submitted closeout plans acceptable to the state. He was given another warning asking for the plans, Dexter said. That October, the state fined Cunningham $10,000 for violating the condition of his permit. They ordered him to provide specifications for a landfill cap, as well as plans for post-closure monitoring and maintenance.

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