Springtime at the dump


In Harford County, hordes of residents and mounds of trash are signs of a seasonal rite

April 16, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN REPORTER

In homes across Harford County, bathrooms gleam with new fixtures, lighting and paint.

A wave of renovated bedrooms has swept over the county, too, and brand-new outdoor furniture adorns decks, porches and patios.

Kari Hodgson knows this, though she hasn't set foot inside a single home. As a weigh master at the Harford Waste Disposal Center, Hodgson has observed residents arrive en masse this spring and dump tons of bathroom fixtures, bedroom furniture and lawn accoutrements in the annual rite of spring cleaning.

"You get a real feel for what renovating is going on at home," Hodgson, an environmental engineering student at the University of Delaware who works part time at the facility in Street, said on a recent Saturday.

On the busiest day of the week, during the busiest season of the year, residents arrived before the 60-acre facility opened and sat in a line of vehicles up to a mile long, waiting to chuck their castoff goods into 12-ton bins. They come from nearby Whiteford and not-so-nearby Edgewood to noisily deposit their share of the 50,000 tons dumped in the landfill each year.

Some of the junk doesn't even make it to the landfill, as dump-goers frequently spot others' trash and ask the owner if they can take it or trade for it.

"It's really better here than at a yard sale," Karen Long, a Bel Air resident, said. "You don't have to pay."

Appliances, TVs, furniture, air conditioners, tires, mattresses and computers are all tossed into the appropriate bins, amid the crashing of glass and the rumble of bulldozers, forklifts and dump trucks.

"Everything you see at Wal-Mart, you will see here - just a few years later," said Frank Henderson, Harford's deputy director of environmental affairs.

Adam Kirhagis of Jarrettsville pulled in with a truckload of broken drywall and several bathroom fixtures, including a complete shower stall.

"Everything you see used to be a master bathroom," he said.

Residents were clearing their decks of aging wicker, plastic and metal to make way for this spring's lawn chair models.

"My wife said I had to get rid of this old lawn furniture now," said Bill Trado of Bel Air, who persevered through the rain.

But lousy weather rarely deters landfill patrons.

"It can be pouring cats and dogs and you will still see mega people here," said Janine Rogers, senior equipment operator.

Jennifer Greenleaf and her 13-year-old son, David, arrived from their nearby farmhouse with junk filling the truck bed and back seat of their pickup.

"It's just good old-fashioned spring cleaning," said Jennifer Greenleaf, as David tossed an old gerbil cage into the abyss. "I emptied out my laundry room, got rid of the basement carpet and all the junk that accumulates over the winter."

The easily accessible facility off Route 543 offers "a good excuse to clean out," said Long, who trashed strings of faulty Christmas lights, a scraggly artificial tree and a busted lawnmower.

"I live in a townhouse where it's easier to get rid of stuff than store it," she said.

It's not all junk. Hodgson has seen clothing still bearing sales tags, mattresses in original packaging, and a complete dining room set, every piece brand-new.

County policy prohibits landfill personnel from scavenging items for themselves. And though staff members discourage residents from making exchanges on the premises, they all have seen haggling at the bins.

Lisa Zimmerman of Forest Hill lined up several of her children's outgrown bikes and watched as they quickly disappeared into other vehicles. She, too, has felt tempted to scavenge, but said, "I am too chicken to take it."

On most Saturdays in the spring, the line of cars, regulated by a traffic officer, snakes up Scarboro Road into the landfill and loops around several outbuildings to the weigh station. Drivers back in at "homeowners' wall," open the trunk and start chucking. Patrons have, on occasion, fallen in, but no serious injuries have occurred, Rogers said.

Besides patience, residents need a driver's license with a Harford County address and $5 per pickup truck or $3 per car to gain entry.

Dennis Soriano of Bel Air made three trips on a recent Saturday. Each time his wait grew longer, but he persisted.

"I have a two-car garage with no room whatsoever for cars," he said, hurling a ragged tent and several broken toys into the bin.

For some, the trip to the dump is a family affair.

"It's really cool getting rid of junk from the garage," said 9-year-old Kenny Compain of Havre de Grace, cheering as the thick 2-foot-by-2-foot mirror he chucked into the bin shattered. "I like breaking stuff."

Zachery Furrow of Abingdon began his fifth birthday at the landfill, helping his dad, Tim, empty the family van.

"Here's my old flip-flop," said Zachery, clinging tightly to a dusty shoe.

"It's trash now," his father insisted.

A "bucket swisher" - a snowplow-like contraption attached to a dump truck - compacts material in the bin, packing everything down to maximize space.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.