Landfill is improved

Many violations corrected, new equipment installed

December 21, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

In the nine months since county officials received an environmental evaluation critical of operations and conditions at Harford County's only landfill, the public works department has addressed many problem areas, officials said.

A Maryland Environmental Service assessment of the Harford Waste Disposal Center uncovered 56 violations, including unsafe areas and equipment, escaping litter, inadequate trash cover and erosion of surrounding ground at the county landfill in Street.

The county immediately developed an action plan and has corrected 42 of the violations MES discovered at the 20-year-old landfill. Officials also named former chief engineer Thomas C. Hilton as deputy director of public works with responsibility for the landfill and environmental services.

In a meeting with the county council last week, Hilton detailed the practices and staff training now in place. Several pieces of equipment have been replaced. Crews have rebuilt drainage channels to improve storm water management and planted grasses to help stabilize areas surrounding the 60-acre facility on Scarboro Road.

A storm water management upgrade is in the planning stages, he said. And trustees from the county Detention Center patrol the entire perimeter daily to help control blown litter.

"We have made great strides in safety and training," Hilton said. "We hope to complete all other improvements by the end of the fiscal year. We are also visiting other solid waste facilities to determine how they handle improvements."

The county paid MES, an independent state agency charged with protecting air, land and water resources, $40,000 for the comprehensive examination that included on-site inspections of the daily operations over a 90-day period as well as comprehensive reviews of permits, daily reports, annual tonnage and expansion plans.

Although officials insist the landfill is engineered to established standards with safeguards in place to protect groundwater and air quality, nearby residents have complained for years about trash, odors, possible contamination of their wells, health hazards, noise and traffic.

The landfill, which handles about 50 tons of waste daily, is scheduled for a $3 million expansion on an adjoining 77-acre parcel early next year.

Councilman Chad Shrodes said a recent tour of the landfill convinced him that the staff is doing everything possible to upgrade the landfill and make it safer for staff and residents.

"I am impressed with the operations, cleanliness and safety at the facility. I appreciate your being as transparent as possible about this effort," Shrodes said.

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