Officials appeal to state to keep landfill closed

Md. rejects waste plan that doesn't include Abingdon site

August 14, 2005|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Harford County is fighting efforts by the state to force a reopening of a 75-year-old landfill near fast-growing Abingdon that neighbors want closed but state officials insist remain part of the county's official waste management plan.

The appeal is the latest development in a continuing fight over the reopening of a landfill in an area that has undergone significant residential growth over the past decade.

County Executive David R. Craig and County Council President Robert S. Wagner signed a letter to the head of the state Department of the Environment asking him to reconsider the decision to reject the solid waste management plan because it did not include Spencer rubble landfill.

"Let there be no mistake about it, we are united in our opposition to the state's action," Wagner said. "The council is standing behind the county executive's action."

In March, the County Council approved the administration's solid waste management plan after eliminating the use of the former Spencer sand and gravel pit off Abingdon Road as a landfill for construction and demolition debris.

The council argued that Spencer's permit had expired 13 years ago and that it was no longer appropriate to operate a landfill at the site. Hundreds of homes had been built in the area while the quarry was dormant.

The council's action was applauded by more than 200 people who packed the council chambers to protest the proposed reopening.

"Spencer's permit expired in 1992," Wagner said. "Just because once upon a time they had a permit doesn't mean you have a permit forever."

State environmental officials viewed it differently. A letter from waste management administration director Horacio Tablada to the county's public works director said: "In accordance with past court decisions, it is clear that once a facility is put in the Plan it is considered to be in the Plan permanently."

In taking this action, the state sided with a White Marsh company, Days Cove Reclamation Co., that wants to reopen the site.

The quarry, which has been in operation since the 1930s, had operations on both sides of Abingdon Road.

In return for being allowed to use the pit on the east side of the road, which is about 20 percent filled, Days Cove had agreed to make improvements to the already-filled site on the west side of the road.

They included putting a cap on the filled pit to prevent water from leaking through the waste and contaminating ground water.

Days Cove said it would install a liner in the pit on the west side of the road and, when it's full, cap it according to state regulations. It also agreed to build ball fields, recreational facilities and hiking trails on the site.

Neighbors were not appeased. During two council hearings, they said the reopening of Spencer's landfill would result in air pollution and more noise. They said it would result in a decline in the value of their homes.

Kenneth R. Binnix, executive vice president of Days Cove, said last week that he did not want to comment on the state's decision.

Through a spokeswoman for the company, he said: "The process is in place, and we will let the process take its course."

The state also insisted that a second site, Maryland Reclamation Associate's Gravel Hill Road landfill near Havre de Grace, which has a valid refuse disposal permit, be included in the county's 10-year solid waste management plan.

In their letter to the state, Craig and Wagner argued that the state's rejection of the 10-year plan would have far-reaching and detrimental effects on citizens.

They said rejection of the plan prevents the needed expansion of the county's waste-to-energy plan that supplies steam to the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

It also prevents the planned expansion of the county's only landfill where residents can take household waste, the Harford Waste Disposal Center at Scarboro.

Craig and Wagner asked state environment Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick to approve the plan with the exception of the removal of the Maryland Reclamation and Spencer projects.

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