Trashy situation

January 12, 2012

Possibly overshadowed by the passage Tuesday night of county waste transfer station regulations was the suggestion that a second site for such an operation could be available.

As an aside, it is a bit difficult to understand why the administration of Harford County Executive David R. Craig and the members of the Harford County Council have suddenly been so vigilant in putting together a plan for a trash transfer station. There are certainly reasons why one may be needed, but more about that presently.

Until Tuesday night, discussions of a trash transfer station for Harford County had centered on the former Coleman Plecker's golf site on Route 7 near Route 152 in Joppa. The county recently purchased the property, and it is in a location relatively convenient to I-95 and the county's population centers. On the down side, it is in a high profile area, near an Interstate gateway to the county and pretty darn close to long established neighborhoods.

Monday night as people were gearing up to protest the county's impending enactment of trash transfer station regulations, a representative from an engineering firm told the Joppa-Joppatowne Community Council there's a relatively remote site in the Aberdeen area that has been considered for such a facility.

Tony Gorski, of D. Moore & Associates LLC, told the community council the transfer station could be placed on an 8-acre site in the Aberdeen area, from which the waste could be shipped less expensively via rail than it would cost to ship it by truck from the Joppa site.

It remains to be seen if the Aberdeen site is the answer. It can be guaranteed that no matter where a trash transfer site is proposed, people who live in the surrounding area will give the proposal close scrutiny and protests will follow unless the site is truly remote.

The suggestion, however, brings to light a key reality of the situation at hand, namely that the sudden push for a trash transfer site is reason enough for everyone in Harford County to demand the process slow down a bit.

The relatively sudden emergence of the Joppa site and the trash transfer station proposal crops up against a backdrop of an impending garbage disposal crisis in the county. For years, the bulk of Harford County's trash has been turned into ash at the waste to energy plant on the edge of the Edgewood area of Aberdeen Proving Ground. The future of that facility is far from certain, and the Army has become rather reclusive with regard to its intentions for upgrading or replacing the facility, which is nearing the end of its useful life.

If the county were forced to deal with bulk garbage rather than ash, the Scarboro Landfill would fill up a lot sooner than is projected. A new landfill, or an expanded Scarboro facility, would be needed. Or the county would have to devise some sort of out-of-county solution for garbage disposal, hence the sudden need for a trash transfer station.

The key part of this issue that doesn't appear to be in the sights of our elected officials is that the issue is one resulting from secretive decisions being made by the Army. Certainly the Army needs to keep things secret when it comes to matters of national defense and military strategy, but garbage incineration and steam production do not fall into these categories. It's time for the Army to be more open about this process, or it's time for our local members of Congress to demand such openness.

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