Army decides against placing plant for asbestos disposal at proving ground

Residents near post in Harford opposed plan

February 11, 2005|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The Army has changed its mind and decided not to put an asbestos disposal plant at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Harford County Executive James M. Harkins announced yesterday.

As proposed by the Army, the plant would have collected asbestos from military installations from surrounding states and reduced it to a nonhazardous material that could be taken to a landfill. The plant would have been a larger version of an operation run by the Army at the proving ground in 1996 and 1997.

George Mercer, a spokesman for the military installation, said the earlier conversion plant was successful at making asbestos harmless but was not cost-effective.

A New York company, A-Conversion LLC, agreed last year to take over the operation of the plant. The company felt that by expanding the operation it could be a financial success.

Aberdeen and Edgewood area residents opposed the project. During a community meeting held by APG in October to explain the process, residents shouted down post officials and demanded that they address their safety concerns about the proposed plant.

Mark Jones, who lives in Joppa, just outside the APG gate, set the tone of the meeting when he said, "This can be done anywhere in the nation. Why is it being done in such a densely populated area?

"Don't put this in anybody's back yard," he yelled from the back of the room. "Take it out in the middle of a desert."

Jones was one of about 50 angry residents who attended the meeting at the Edgewood Senior Center.

County Councilman Dion F. Guthrie, a Democrat representing Joppa and Edgewood, expressed his concern about transporting the asbestos material through the county.

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral used in insulation and building products. It can cause health problems, including cancer and other lung diseases, if inhaled.

In making the announcement yesterday, Harkins said, "This administration has worked closely with APG to express the concerns of the community about this demonstration project ... and I am pleased that once again, the Army has taken the concerns of citizens into consideration in making this decision."

Mercer said the Army still wants an asbestos conversion plant and is considering other sites. He said he does not expect it to be in Maryland.

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