Return of trucks to smoking dump angers neighbors

Robert Meekins has had enough of the dust and fuel exhaust that fill the air every time a truck rolls past his house on its way to the stump dump a half-mile up Dogwood Road.

"Every time a truck goes by, my house shakes," said Mr. Meekins, 68.


So he and a dozen of his neighbors demonstrated yesterday morning to protest the return of trucks bringing stumps through their neighborhood to the Patapsco Valley Tree Farm in the 8700 block of Dogwood Road -- even though a 3-week-old fire at the dump continues.

The fire has slowed "slightly," Baltimore County fire officials said, but likely will continue to burn for several more weeks.


Yet county lawyers said they must let the site's owner, James F. Jett, accept more stumps and wood debris at a section about 50 yards from the smoldering hills of stumps because he is operating within the law.

Neighbors lined up along Dogwood Road with signs, complaining that the dump near Interstate 70 had meant eight years of dangerous truck traffic, pollution flowing from the site into area waterways and continued risk of such a fire.

"There is a fire there that cannot be put out, and you're allowing this man to continue to dump. It's unbelievable," an angry Sandy Ludwig told an aide to County Executive Roger B. Hayden at the site yesterday.

"The environment has been totally ruined around here," she complained.

Neighbors said the county should fight the operation in court. They also said they were looking for an attorney willing to seek a court order to shut it down because it endangered the public's health.

"Why should one human being be allowed to come in here and ruin the lives and endanger the safety and the well-being of a whole community?" asked Rosalyn Roddy of Hernwood Road, who held a sign that asked, "Why Isn't the County Helping?"

James McKinney, Mr. Hayden's aide, said county lawyerreviewed the case recently and concluded the operation must be allowed to continue.

"He hasn't broken any laws," Mr. McKinney said.


He said that Mr. Jett had agreed to accept no more than 20 trucks of debris each day, beginning today. In addition, the debris must be ground into mulch and removed from the property within 24 hours. County officials will be at the site to monitor activity, Mr. McKinney said.

Yesterday, Mr. Jett showed reporters the area about 50 yards south of the fire where he intends to put the new stumps. He then ushered them from his property.

County records show that government officials have gone to court three times since 1985 to force Mr. Jett to curtail his operations but have failed each time.

Battalion Chief Roy Kemmer of the county's Fire Department said that the department had been working with Mr. Jett to correct fire code violations found in inspections of the property last October but that the fire interrupted the effort.