Next tactic in stump fire is burial Baltimore County to pay $1.6 million


Baltimore County officials yesterday unveiled their latest plan to extinguish the smoldering stump dump fire in Granite: Bury it under a mound of 250,000 cubic yards of dirt.

The county had been facing a court order to explain why it should not be held in contempt of court for failing to put out the stubborn stump dump fire, which has been burning since February of 1991.

The plan to bury the five-acre stump dump replaces an earlier county plan to pull the dump apart and burn the stumps individually. That, county officials said, would cost too much money and take too long -- as much as $8 million over two years.

The current plan should cost no more than the $1.6 million the County Council budgeted to put the fire out, county officials said. The county will use the Maryland Environmental Service, a state agency with experience in capping landfills, to hire contractors to truck dirt to the stump dump.

The Genstar Stone Products Co., which operates a quarry about eight miles from the stump dump, will provide the dirt free of charge. The company welcomed the chance to dispose of dirt from its excavations.

George G. Perdikakis, director of the Maryland Environmental Service, said work could start within the next several weeks and be completed in eight to 12 months.

Because the fire has burned down somewhat, there are fewer "hot spots" and less hazard to the workers who will be spreading the dirt, said Baltimore County Fire Chief Elwood H. Banister. "I feel confident that it will work," he said of the newest plan.

"It's the same type of procedure as capping a landfill," said County Executive Roger B. Hayden.

Michael P. Tanczyn, attorney for James Jett, the owner of the stump dump, said he had "no comment" about the county's newest plan.

The county had until yesterday to answer a "show cause" order issued by Judge James T. Smith of the Baltimore County Circuit Court. H. Emslie Parks, the county attorney, said he, Mr. Tanczyn and Mr. Jett met with Judge Smith yesterday and explained the new plan. The judge set a hearing on the matter for August 12.

"We've made all kinds of efforts to put out the fire," said Mr. Parks. "We've now got spots of fire, as opposed to a general fire. . . . It was like a volcano over there."

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