State officials approved a permit yesterday for a new $7 million landfill in Allegany County -- the only public landfill to be operated by a private corporation in the state -- paving the way for out-of-state trash to be trucked into Maryland.
Chambers Development Inc. of Pittsburgh, a waste disposal firm that has taken over municipal waste services along the East Coast, will build and operate the county's new landfill -- under a 1987 agreement with Allegany County officials -- in Vale Summit, about two miles north of Frostburg. The new landfill, which will replace a county landfill that is over capacity, is expected to begin operating by the end of the year.
"We're very pleased by the department's favorable action," said Ed Wiles, Chambers' spokesman.
The 20-year agreement between the county and Chambers includes a 125,000-ton yearly cap on trash dumped in the site. County officials have estimated that the county has 70,000 to 90,000 tons of trash annually, leaving the remainder to be marketed by Chambers.
The Vale Summit landfill met with strong citizen opposition: County residents protested the decision to turn over the landfill operation to a private firm and feared that the area would become a dumping ground for out-of-state trash. Residents also charged that the site, a strip-mining operation, was a poor choice.
Residents formed Citizens for Responsible Waste Disposal (CROWD), a coalition of community groups and government officials opposed to the landfill. All three commissioners who entered into the agreement with Chambers were ousted in last year's elections.
An independent review panel created by Gov. William Donald Schaefer reported last month that the site, with some restrictions, was acceptable for a landfill. Maryland Department of the Environment officials said they have addressed those concerns in the permit.
"A community should not have a landfill imposed on it that the entire electorate rejected," said Wayne Spiggle, a Cumberland physician and CROWD spokesman.