A regional waste-to-energy plant or regional landfill would not be built in Howard County if the county participates with three other counties in a regional waste disposal consortium, according to a report released last week by the state authority studying the idea.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said he was pleased with the results of the study done by Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority in Baltimore. But building a trash incinerator, included in four of the seven options, would be a difficult issue for any of the four counties.

"If it's not in Howard County it would be better for me," said Ecker, who has solid waste worries of his own with or without a regional facility.

Included in county department capital requests this year are a $5.4 million composting facility to handle yard waste and a $12 million landfill at an undetermined site.

Ecker last week received the executive summary of what is often called the quad-county study, and on March 4 will meet with commissioners from Carroll, Frederick and Washington counties to discuss the study's seven options.

The 38-page summary lists seven options of how the counties can join in a regional solid waste management plan.

The options all include recycling and yard-waste composting programs. The options are:

* Continue the current practice of individual county landfills and recycling centers.

* A regional landfill in eastern Frederick County.

* The regional landfill plus a refuse-derived fuel plant in Frederick County that would turn trash from the four counties intofuel pellets to be burned in cement kilns in Carroll, Frederick and Washington. Recycleables would be removed at the plant.

* A small-scale waste-to-energy incinerator at Springfield Hospital Center that would burn 250 tons of garbage a day and sell the resulting electricity to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. Ash would be buried in a regional landfill in Frederick.

This option also calls for the refuse-derived fuel plant in Frederick County.

* The same plan, butwith the incinerator at Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown.

* A large-scale waste-to-energy incinerator at Springfield burning 2,400 tons a day, with no refuse-derived fuel plant.

* The same plan, but at the prison in Hagerstown.

Building the incinerator would cost $33 million for a small one and $271 million for a large one, with annual operating costs of $3 million and $14 million, respectively. However, the incinerators would generate $1 million to $18million in revenue.

County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray said he thought the regional plan would be easier to accept if Howard did not have to accommodate an incinerator or regional landfill.

Getting the counties to agree on a regional solution might be difficult, however, as the governments that initiated the study 1 years ago changed somewhat in the last election.

"Many of the commissioners are no longer in office," especially in Frederick County, which saw a complete turnover, "so we may see different priorities on the part of the new people."

Gray said he was "absolutely shocked" that Ecker isalready planning a new county landfill, especially in light of the regional study's completion.

"We have a landfill now, and I think what we're trying to do is extend the life of the landfill," with recycling programs and a new rubble fill, Gray said.

But Ecker said, "I don't think we can wait any longer," because state and federal regulations have lengthened the process of siting a landfill.

County public works officials have estimated that it would take from five to seven years to get a new landfill started.

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