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Alternative suggested for Joppa waste transfer station

A waste transfer station could be put on another site in Harford County, in a non-residential part of Aberdeen, rather than in the middle of a residential community in Joppa.

Joppa residents, who entered the home stretch of their fight against a waste transfer station in their community Tuesday evening, were told Monday by representatives of an engineering company that another site might be possible.

The alternative seemed appealing to at least one area resident.

"We're getting a transfer station, whether we like it or not, somewhere in the county," Dale Gomez, a resident at Monday's Joppa/Joppatowne Community Council meeting, said. "What they're proposing sounds a lot better to me than what's happening now."

Tony Gorski, of D. Moore & Associates LLC, said at the Joppa/Joppatowne Community Council meeting the transfer station could be placed on another, 8-acre site in the Aberdeen area, from which the waste could be shipped less expensively via rail.

"There are viable alternatives in the community that can be done with private money," Gorski told residents at Monday's meeting.

On Tuesday, the County Council chambers were standing room only for a public hearing on a new bill introduced by Councilmembers Mary Ann Lisanti and Joe Woods that was intended to put more restrictions on the process of selecting a site for a waste facility.

Lisanti said the bill would require a community input meeting before selecting a site and would provide the public with more information about such a project, as well as require at least a 150-foot buffer from residential properties.

She emphasized that approval of the bill would not mean an approval of the Plecker property as a potential transfer station.

Twenty-three residents were signed up to speak for the hearing, and most said they would support the bill with stricter amendments, including a deeper setback.

Gorski and Jeffrey Moore said they looked at a property several years ago in Aberdeen, between I-95 and Route 40 near Loflin Road, that they said does not have any immediate residential neighbors and is already zoned and subdivided as an industrial parcel.

He also said the trash would be shipped out of the county on trains.

"One rail car takes five of the tractor trailers of trucks off your roads," Gorski said. "As far as Harford County is concerned, your waste gets taken care of. The bigger benefit to Harford County, I believe, is that the county doesn't have to get involved."

Also, he said, "most railroads require these waste-hauling cars be contained. It's not just a big open container with trash in it."

Gorski and Moore said they do not yet own the site in Aberdeen, but implied that it was reserved for such a purpose several years ago.

"We have had the property under contract," Gorski said, explaining they originally had the property put into the county solid waste management plan.

The plan faltered because the county was not sure if the facility would be allowed to include food waste.

"It was targeted by us for that purpose and was put into the plan for that purpose," he said.

Gorski said they have built similar projects in secluded areas in places like Charles County, Annapolis Junction in Anne Arundel County and Ocean City.

He said it makes much more sense to build an enclosed facility that is not immediately adjacent to any homes.

"A private company would never do it because they couldn't possibly get it through," he said.

Moore, who said he does engineering work for the group, noted a transfer station is a good alternative to a landfill.

"We don't own the site, but we, quite frankly, didn't think it was going to go anywhere," he said. "It seems like there's a reason to become interested again … Landfills are a place where waste comes and remains forever; a transfer station is a pretty good alternative to those."

Gorski said the station would not affect residents' trash pick-up services. He said his group would be working to attract the business of those waste management companies.

Moore said the reality is residents either have to build another landfill or ship trash elsewhere.

"You do not have a universe of options; you have very limited options. You're generating waste at a very high rate," he said. "It has to go somewhere."

Paula Mullis, head of the community council, said "as much as we say we want answers from the private company, we haven't gotten answers form the county."

County Councilman Dion Guthrie, who was at the meeting, said he asked for a representative from county administration to attend the council meeting, but no one came.

"This is really getting more and more important with the waste transfer station and we really need to make sure we stay on top of this because it's not going away," Mullis said. "My personal opinion is they don't want to have to face this issue yet or discuss it with us."

Guthrie said he does not understand why the county paid $2.9 million for the property when property tax assessments show it is worth about $1 million.

He called Gorski's and Jeffrey's proposal "a win-win."

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