Second hearing is set on landfill site

Abingdon area residents say they were unaware of county plan to reopen pit

February 20, 2005|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Abingdon area residents will get a second chance to express their thoughts on the county's plan to reopen a landfill in their fast-growing neighborhood.

County Council President Robert S. Wagner has scheduled a second public hearing on the administration's proposed solid-waste management plan and its suggestion to use the Spencer sand and gravel pit off Abingdon Road as a landfill for construction and demolition debris.

Wagner said he scheduled the second hearing after determining that most of the people living near the pit had no knowledge of the county plan. The landfill has been closed since 1992.

"I was surprised to see that people didn't know about this," Wagner said. "They had not gotten proper notification from either the administration or the Days Cove [Reclamation Co.]," he said. Days Cove is the White Marsh company that would operate the landfill if the plan is approved by the council.

"I know there were a lot more people who would want to speak on this issue if they had known about it," Wagner said.

The second hearing is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. March 1, the next council session.

The administration disclosed its plan to reopen the Spencer landfill as part of its solid-waste management plan, which was submitted to the council Tuesday.

Wagner said Abingdon residents "should not have had to read the Sunday paper to learn about the reopening of the Spencer site."

"We received absolutely no notification from the county," said Andre Rush, president of the Village of Bynum Run Estates community association, which represents 189 homeowners.

Rush, who testified at Tuesday's hearing, said he learned of the county's plan by reading about it in the newspaper.

Proposal details

Jerald Wheeler, director of the county Department of Public Works, said that under the county plan, operation of the Spencer rubble fill would be taken over by Days Cove. He called it a rubble fill because the site would be limited to construction debris and would not accept garbage or household trash.

The Spencer family once operated two sand and gravel quarries at the site. They date to the 1930s and include 72 acres on the west side of Abingdon Road that has been filled with debris and covered.

A 65-acre pit, on the east side of the road, was about 20 percent filled when it was closed in 1992, when its operating permit expired.

Under the county plan, Wheeler said, Days Cove would charge trucks a fee to dump debris at the east site. It would use the proceeds to pay for installation of a cap on the filled west-side pit to prevent water from leaking through the waste and contaminating groundwater.

The company would install a liner in the east 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" on the site.

Addressing the public

Ken Binnix, executive vice president of Days Cove, was speaking about the company's plan for the sites at Tuesday's hearing when Wagner abruptly called a halt to the session that had already run nearly two hours.

He told Binnix that he "should take his show on the road," to inform Abingdon area residents of the company's plan.

Wagner has proposed an amendment to the county's proposed solid-waste management plan that would eliminate the Spencer projects. Council members Cecelia M. Stepp and Dion F. Guthrie have signed on as co-sponsors.

"This is an old wound that we don't want to reopen," Guthrie said.

Guthrie also offered an amendment to the master solid-waste plan that would bar the dumping of asbestos at any county landfill. A second amendment seeks to give the public a stronger voice in setting the county's future solid-waste policy.

Councilman Robert G. Cassilly said he's not sure that eliminating the Spencer sites from the master plan would benefit the community.

"By saying, `No,' the status quo stays in place," he said. "It leaves a large open hole that is a scar on the land. It is not a very attractive piece of property."

Cassilly said he wants to hear from residents to determine whether they want to "go through a level of inconvenience for a limited period of time for a long-term benefit."

He said Days Cove also "needs to do more outreach to determine if residents are willing to buy into its plan."

"The community has to decide if it wants to put up with a period of inconvenience," Cassilly said. "Maybe in five or 10 years everyone will be better off."

The public sentiment at Tuesday's hearing was in opposition to reopening the site.

"As for Spencer's, it's wrong and it's improper to put a dump like that in the middle of a community," Robert D. Dillon, president of the Joppa Magnolia Civic Association, told the council.

Others expressed their concerns about increased truck traffic on crowded, narrow roads, noise from heavy equipment, odors and rats.

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