Lord of Millersville Mountain


Anne Arundel County residents who live near the Millersville landfill now have something else to consider when they look out over one of the county's worse waste problems ever. By the time part of the landfill is closed this fall, the mound will stand 225 feet or more above sea level -- taller than a 20-story building. Worse yet, 2.5 million tons of garbage was dumped there illegally and now, according to a county study, should be left where it is.

So much for the aesthetically pleasing park that Millersville residents were promised 20 years ago would come once the landfill was closed some time this decade. As it is, because of evolving technology and new regulations, the life of the landfill will be extended until the year 2012.

County officials face several immediate problems. First and foremost is to open a new, safer dumping cell by a Sept. 12 deadline set by the Maryland Department of the Environment. Second is to have a contingency plan that includes out-of-state dumping should the deadline not be met.

The legacy of the Millersville landfill will be felt long after the immediate problems are addressed. Seemingly no quarter has been left unscathed by the lack of attention given to the dump. State and local agencies and individuals share the blame.

County Executive Robert R. Neall, who inherited the problem, has assigned a trouble shooter to the situation. Mr. Neall's success or failure will be judged in part by what happens now.

For County Council Chairman David G. Boschert, whose district includes the landfill, the problem is much worse. Mr. Boschert, a Democrat who has been on the council since 1984, is already facing fire from his constituents for failing to realize the scope of the problem and doing something about it years ago. In his defense, Mr. Boschert says he was misled by local officials who assured him that all was going well.

Mr. Boschert's only hope for redemption may be in trying to get the height of the landfill reduced. Unless a county study on the matter is seriously flawed, however, lowering the landfill could cost as much as $155 million and expose the community to horrible odors and health risks. They are not pleasant options for Mr. Boschert, who may simply have to resign himself to a new title: Lord of Millersville Mountain.

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