Joppa area residents will not have to deal with what some feared would be the headache of having a waste transfer station practically in their backyards, thanks to an agreement between Baltimore and Harford counties to transport solid waste to White Marsh for eventual disposal.
Harford County Executive David Craig and Public Works Director Tim Whittie announced the agreement during a press conference in Bel Air late Tuesday morning.
"This is a great example of two counties working together," Whittie said, during the 30-minute briefing attended by a number of county staffers and residents.
Citing impacts to their property values, the environment and local traffic, Joppa and Joppatowne residents had been concerned about a county proposal to build a landfill on 22 acres near the I-95/Route 152 interchange known as the Plecker property.
The Plecker property – which the county has owned since 2011 – will not, however, be used for that purpose because of the agreement to have the waste disposal firms, which pick up residential solid waste in Harford County, truck the waste to the Eastern Sanitary Landfill near White Marsh.
Paula Mullis, chairwoman of the Joppa-Joppatowne Community Council, attended Tuesday's press conference. She said later that she appreciated how Craig had taken residents' concerns into account.
"I applaud him for coming up with an alternative solution," she said. "I think the residents will be very happy."
Mullis also thanked County Councilman Dion Guthrie, whose district includes Joppa and Joppatowne, for his efforts on behalf of the people.
Guthrie, who was away and could not attend Tuesday's press conference, issued the following statement: "I fully support the decision that was reached by the administration regarding our solid waste disposal. This option, as explained by the county executive, alleviates a major concern for the residents of Joppa/Joppatowne and Edgewood."
Craig said county officials will look into other options for developing the Plecker property, which the government paid $2.9 million to acquire.
"Anything from a community center to anything, except a Walmart," Craig said to laughter.
Guthrie told The Aegis Monday the county will not need the Plecker property for the waste transfer station, since the White Marsh facility is a short distance away, about five miles. He said he had made some suggestions to Craig of potential uses for the property, but he declined to discuss them further.
Solid waste in Harford County is transported to the county's Waste Disposal Center off of Scarboro Road in Street, in the northern part of the county, and the Waste-to-Energy incinerator along Magnolia Road in Edgewood.
County officials plan to close the Scarboro Road and Waste-to-Energy facilities in early 2016. Ben Lloyd, deputy chief of staff for Craig, said the county's lease of the Aberdeen Proving Ground property that the Waste-to-Energy plant is on will expire in March of that year.
Craig said during the press conference that Harford residents can still bring household trash and recyclables to Scarboro Road. Lloyd said later the yard waste drop-off facilities at Scarboro and at a satellite facility on Tollgate Road in the Bel Air area will remain open as well.
Whittie said county officials are developing a long-term plan to better handle solid waste disposal.
"We're just not in a good position, as far as being able to provide a cost-effective service to the citizens," he explained.
Whittie said officials are exploring a number of options, including continuing "to reach out to other counties."
"One of my goals is to put the county in a good place," he said.
The agreement must be approved by the county council, which is expected to review it during its May 7 meeting.
In a response to some e-mailed questions Tuesday afternoon, Lloyd wrote the agreement with Baltimore County will be in effect until June 30, 2036.
"We have the option to extend it for two 10-year periods beyond that if we so choose," he wrote.
Lloyd said the costs for Harford County to transfer solid waste at the Baltimore County facility "will come out of the DPW/Solid Waste operating budget."
"While it will involve an increase in costs, this option was the least costly of all of the options on the table," he explained. "No matter what we had decided, our operating costs were always going to increase once our arrangement with the Army expired."
According to Lloyd, county solid waste officials estimate that by 2016, more than 130,000 tons of solid waste to be unloaded annually "at the Baltimore County transfer station at the Eastern Sanitary Landfill."
According to a news release Craig's office put out following the press conference, once the agreement takes full effect, all residential and commercial trash collected by private haulers in Harford will be disposed of at the Eastern facility. Residents will not be able to take their trash directly to Eastern.
Harford is one of the largest jurisdictions in the state that does not directly pickup residential trash. Commercial haulers, who contract with homeowners and businesses to pick up their trash, pay tipping fees to the county to dispose of what they collect at Scarboro and the incinerator, or at other locations outside the county if they choose.
Other than licensing the haulers, the county does not regulate their charges to their customers. Local municipal governments in Bel Air and Aberdeen operate trash collection services for their residents. The City of Havre de Grace contracts with a private hauler on behalf of its residents. The municipal trash services or their contractors also pay disposal site tipping fees.
Guthrie said Monday he had been pushing for the county to consider a deal with Baltimore County as an alternative to one Craig originally made with the Maryland Environmental Service to ship Harford's trash to an incinerator that the quasi-public state agency was planning to develop in the Fairfield area of South Baltimore. That project stalled last year over contractual issues between MES and a third party involved in the project. The delay provided an opening for Harford to consider an alternative.