Rubble landfill location opposed

Neighbors, council leader criticize plan to reopen pit closed in early '90s

February 13, 2005|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Harford County's proposed solid waste management plan calls for four rubble collection sites, including the reopening of a controversial landfill in the fast-growing Abingdon area.

There is already growing opposition, among residents and County Council members, to a plan to use the Spencer sand and gravel pit off Abingdon Road as a landfill for construction and demolition debris.

"That's not the place for a landfill," said Council President Robert S. Wagner. "The population has grown significantly in that area since the site was closed in the early 1990s."

"We're talking about a steady stream of trucks, up to 100 trucks a day. That's going to change the entire character of the neighborhood."

Neighbors say that reopening Spencer landfill would result in more noise and air pollution. They fear a decline in the value of their homes.

"The population around the Spencer site has grown 100 percent from 1990 to 2000," said Janet Hardy, who lives within a half-mile of the proposed landfill. "We're are talking about high, high density in the Abingdon area. We know that we are in the development envelope, but this is way beyond development. This is heavy-duty commercial enterprise."

Wagner said that most people living near the Spencer site had no knowledge of the county's plan for the 65-acre former sand and gravel mine.

Wagner has scheduled a public hearing on the county's solid waste management plan for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers.

The plan, which is subject to council approval, also lists the establishment of three recycling sites to handle construction and demolition waste.

"These are brand-new sites," said Jerald Wheeler, director of the Department of Public Works. "All are in the Route 40 corridor and they will all handle construction and demolition material."

If the county's plan is approved, Wheeler said, the three sites could be open within two years.

The sites are:

40 East Industrial Park. This is near the intersection of Pulaski Highway and Loflin Road. Recycled materials would be shipped off site along with any residuals.

Austin Transfer Station, on Philadelphia Road at Pauls Lane. In addition to construction waste, the plant would shred tires.

Harford Recycling LLC, at 1001 Philadelphia Road in Aberdeen. It would process construction material with all recycled materials and residual materials shipped off site.

Wheeler said all three of the recycling centers would be in industrial sites. "None will back up to a neighbor's home," he said. "They would also be operated by private companies."

None of the facilities would accept household garbage or materials such as yard trimmings, he said.

Wheeler said the Spencer family operated two sand and gravel mining operations in the 1930s, one on each side of Abingdon Road. The 72-acre site on the west side of road has been filled with debris and covered. About 20 percent of the 72-acre pit on the opposite side of the road has been filled. It was closed in 1992 when its permit expired.

Wheeler said that under the county plan, the operation of the Spencer rubble fill would be taken over by Days Cove Reclamation Co. based in White Marsh. He explained that the company would install a cap on the already-filled pit to prevent water from leaking through the waste and contaminating groundwater.

To help pay the $2 million cost of this work, the company would operate the other site, charging tipping fees for dumping construction and demolition debris.

The company would install a liner in the pit and, when it's full, cap it according to state regulations. Once the landfill is capped and covered with dirt, Wheeler said the company has agreed to "build ball fields, recreational facilities and hiking trails."

That sounds exciting, said Hardy, but she fears what would happen if Days Cove should go out of business before the work is completed. She wants the county to guarantee that the project will be completed.

Wagner was not happy about "bringing material from outside of Harford County to Abingdon Road. Anytime you have a landfill this close to houses it creates enormous problems," he said. He doesn't feel that the promise of a park and recreational facilities at the site would outweigh the issue of having a landfill in a residential community.

Judy Blomquist agreed. "No matter how sweet the deal, this land is simply unacceptable for a rubble fill," the president of Friends of Harford said in a letter to the County Council last week. The grass-roots group tracks growth issues.

"Past experience has documented the crowding of the roads, the dirt and the stench inflicted on the neighborhoods, the devaluation of property - all to provide a profit to bury out of county and out of state materials," she said in the letter.

Wagner said he was prepared to offer an amendment that would remove the Spencer site from the county plan.

Dion F. Guthrie, the lone Democrat on the council, who represents the Joppa and Edgewood areas, said he also opposed the Spencer landfill. "They say they are only going to dump construction rubble there, but how will we know?"

Guthrie said he was also concerned about a change in the language of the plan. He said the current law requires the county's solid waste plan to be reviewed by an ad hoc community group before it is presented to the council.

"They want to change this to citizen advisory group," Guthrie said. "An advisory group could give advice, but they [county officials] don't have to take it."

Hardy served on the advisory groups for the current plan, and she complained that she had little say in the final product. "We were not allowed to vote on what we felt should be included or excluded in the plan."

Wheeler said that while there was no vote on issues, the opinions of the community members were included in the drafting of the plan.

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