Yvonne Hooper spends her workday atop a mountain, albeit a mountain of trash.
The odor of days-old rubbish emptied from trash trucks is rank under the summer sun. Wind whips up the dirt used to bury the trash at her workplace -- the county's Scarboro Landfill near Dublin.
Hooper pulls out a white mask, ready to veil her nose and mouth from the dust and smell.
The odor you can get used to, she says, but never the dust.
The 36-year-old Bel Air resident is one of the county inspectors who monitor the waste going into the county landfilland other dump sites.
Starting her inspection of a load trucked in by Eastern Trash Co., a Jarrettsville hauling company, Hooper firstgrabs newspapers and envelopes from the pile, checking for addressesto make sure that none of the trash has been shipped in from anothercounty.
As a bulldozer spreads the garbage down a hill, Hooper scans the trash looking for containers that might contain hazardous materials.
The inspector gives the all-clear sign: The trash hauler is sent on his way and the load is buried.
Hooper is one of three women and five men who monitor the county's Scarboro Landfill, the rubble fills in Abingdon and Edgewood, and the waste-to-energy incinerator at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
In addition to commercial haulers, the inspectors check trash brought in to the disposal sites by countycitizens.
Their job is to make sure that everything going into the trash disposal sites is allowed -- no hazardous materials and no out-of-county trash are permitted.
You might call them the trash police.
"Anything that can be a hazard to the community, we have to check for," says Hooper, who has worked as an inspector for five years.
The county has been required by the state Department of theEnvironment to staff trash disposal sites with inspectors for about 10 years, said Joseph P. Rutherford, superintendent of the county's solid waste programs.
Despite the large amount of trash going into the "waste stream" -- as many as 650 trucks a day at the Scarboro Landfill alone -- inspectors seldom find haulers violating the policy onhazardous materials and out-of-county trash, Rutherford said.
Haulers who bring in out-of-county trash are charged $65 a ton for theirentire load, even if it contains some local garbage, inspector Anne Himmel said. Haulers carrying trash from Harford collection sites arenot charged to dump in county landfills.
Out-of-county demolitiondebris is permitted in the privately owned rubble fills in Edgewood and Abingdon.
If suspected hazardous materials are spotted in a load, the county Health Department and the Hazardous Materials ResponseTeam, or HazMat, are called to examine the materials, Rutherford said.
If the materials are hazardous, the haulers are required to dispose of the items at a site that takes hazardous materials, Rutherford said.
That was the case on April 30 when a Harford Sanitation Services truck brought a load of debris to the Oak Avenue rubble fill in Edgewood, said John Goheen, spokesman for the state Department of the Environment.
A county inspector examining the debris -- hauled from a renovation project at a Baltimore City school -- found cans ofpaint, containers of solvents and drums of powdered soap mixed in the load, Goheen said. He described the materials as "items that don't pose any direct threat to human health but don't belong in this type of landfill."
The inspector at the rubble fill, which routinely accepts materials like demolition debris, rocks and tree stumps, calledthe county HazMat team and DOE officials, Goheen said. Harford Sanitation Services was ordered to take the materials to Asbestos Removal Co., a Joppa firm handling the renovation project, Goheen said.
DOE officials believe the materials were inadvertently put into a trashbin at the project site, Goheen said. No fines or citations were issued by the department.
Rutherford, the superintendent of the county's solid waste programs, said the incident is an example of the inspection program working properly.
"Our checker picked it up just like that," Rutherford said. "He was really on the ball."
Trashinspector Hooper's day starts at 7 a.m., when the first round of trash trucks enter the driveway of the Scarboro Landfill. The trucks pull onto a scale near a trailer, where two other inspectors, Anne Himmel and Cindy Wells, await their arrival.
Himmel and Wells record the weight of the trucks, the materials in the load and where the load originated. That information is fed into a computer.
Himmel and Wells check the hauler's operating license and vehicle registration. They ask if the load contains hazardous materials before the truck is sent into the landfill, where Hooper is waiting to take a closer look at the load.
Inspectors also monitor trash brought into the landfill by county citizens. Residents take their trash to bins, which are later dumped into the landfill by county employees.
"This is our busiest season," says Himmel, who has been an inspector for three years. "Everybody is cleaning house."
The day after Christmas is another busy time, the Delta, Pa., resident says. "We have someone standing (at the landfill entrance) all day."
At midmorning, Hooper takesover the duties at the trailer, and Himmel and Wells take Hooper's place in the landfill. Their day ends at 3 p.m., after hundreds of loads of trash have been weighed, inspected and dumped.
Despite the odor, the dust and the hectic pace, Hooper maintains she would not want to change her job as an inspector.
"I like my job because it hasa mixture of inside and outside work," Hooper says. "It's also really diversified. It's never boring."