Residents withdraw appeal for Street landfill expansion

September 28, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun reporter

A group of residents has dropped its challenge to the expansion of Harford County's landfill, meaning the $3 million project can proceed, county officials said yesterday.

Several residents who live near the Harford Waste Disposal Center in Street appealed the state decision to grant a permit for the expansion, arguing that the project will harm drinking water in the area. However the residents said they can no longer afford the legal fees needed to continue the effort.

"We anticipate we will have the permit in hand within a week," Frank Henderson, Harford's deputy director of environmental affairs, said yesterday. "We expect to have the design done this winter and then begin construction."

The residents complained that the county had not created a storm water management plan, which, they added, would adversely affect water quality in Deer Creek, a drinking water source near the facility.

The facility, which is the only government-operated landfill in the county, is projected to reach capacity by the end of 2008. The expansion on 77 adjoining acres is expected to extend the life of the facility for up to 30 years, officials said.

The residents prevailed early in the appeal process, persuading an administrative law judge to schedule a hearing at the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings in Hunt Valley. The independent agency provides an avenue for residents to challenge decisions made by state agencies, in this case the Department of the Environment.

Judge S.J. Nichols was set to hear the state's arguments on a motion for dismissal next week.

"Our attorney received a telephone book-thick questionnaire from MDE two weeks ago that he had to finish before the dismissal hearing," said Diane Burrier, whose home overlooks the landfill. "It would have cost us more than $1,000 for just that."

Sterling Leese, an attorney with the Towson firm handling the case, said it would have been hard for the residents to continue, especially since they had no money to pay for expert testimony.

After working for nearly a decade to secure a construction permit from MDE, the county was about to begin design work last spring when the residents' appeal halted to the project.

"We can now march forward," Henderson said. "We are determined to have this done before the landfill reaches its capacity."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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