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Carroll County commissioners approve spending $13 million on land purchase to expand Northern Landfill

Garbage is stacked into piles before being loaded into a truck in a transfer station at the Northern Landfill in Westminster in this 2015 file photo.
Garbage is stacked into piles before being loaded into a truck in a transfer station at the Northern Landfill in Westminster in this 2015 file photo. (DAVE MUNCH/STAFF PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Carroll County commissioners during their Thursday meeting voted unanimously to spend $13 million on a portion of land to help expand the Northern Landfill and extend its limited lifespan.

In order to protect and preserve the opportunity to expand the Northern Landfill, the county has expressed interest in purchasing property adjacent to the existing facility. Under the Board of Commissioners direction, negotiations with K&P Resource Recovery resulted in a contract for the purchase of nearly 327 acres for more than $13 million, according to a briefing paper from the county’s department of economic development.

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“We have a great opportunity to purchase 327 acres of land,” Jack Lyburn, director of the department of economic development, said at the meeting. “This will extend our landfill, as you know, for many many years.”

The county has been in the process of negotiating the contract for for about six months.

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“The land is available and the owner is motivated to sell it,” Lyburn said. “My recommendation is to execute a contract for the land.”

The purchase would include 102 acres along Reese Road, 170 acres across from the railroad tracks and an additional 55 acres, all contiguous with the existing 220-acre landfill.

While every county is responsible for getting rid of its garbage, Carroll has been exploring how to handle solid waste options for many years. Since the late 1990s, the county has been paying to have a majority of its waste hauled to Pennsylvania and elsewhere, only burying a portion in the current landfill.

Cliff Engle, bureau chief of solid waste, said the county spends between $4 million and $5 million a year transferring about 90,000 tons of trash. If the county put all of its trash in the landfill instead of hauling it out, he said the Northern Landfill would be sustainable for only 12 more years.

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Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, said Thursday he believes it’s important to specify what they are going to use the property for.

“There’s that impression the whole thing will be a landfill … That certainly is not the case,” he said. “This doesn’t mean there’s going to be dirt and dust pushed up against Reese Road.”

Part of the long-term planning for the landfill is to preserve the land the county already has, said Jeff Castonguay, director of the department of public works.

“Currently we have a lot infrastructure that is sitting on the next permanent cell of the landfill that has to be relocated,” he said. "That would be the transfer station and our resident drop-off location.”

Purchasing the land will provide an opportunity to move that infrastructure to an adjoining property, Castonguay said. In addition, it would allow the county to study the potential of a new entrance to the facility, explore the flexibility to do some on-site composting and expand their recycling footprint.

A couple parcels may be used as future cells, he said, but that is part of a “10- to 20-year development plan.”

Castonguay also suggested parts of the property could potentially be used for solar panels in the future.

“I think this is a tremendous opportunity,” Commissioner Eric Bouchat, R-District 4, said. “Everyone has to realize waste management is not where it was 30 years ago … The more information we have for the public to understand what we’re doing here, the better off we are.”

Engle mentioned there will “inevitably be misinformation” and staff will have to work to get ahead of.

During public comment, Jack Hayden, a Carroll County resident with experience in the solid waste industry, told commissioners he is familiar with the project and came to support the purchase.

“The state of solid waste in Maryland and nationwide is very critical,” he said. “There are no more landfills and every jurisdiction is running out of space.”

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