Harford officials, who have long battled rubble landfills, want to create a tipping fee for the county's only remaining private rubble fill, a move that would raise developers' tab for disposing of construction debris.
County Councilman Barry T. Glassman has been lobbying the county's state delegates for legislation to give Harford state permission to create the fee.
The proposed per-load fee, still unspecified, would be collected by the private fill and turned over to the county, which would use the money to increase the health department's budget, Mr. Glassman said.
The proposal would affect only one fill, Pappy's Inc. in Joppa, raising disposal costs for developers and, in turn, homeowners.
"You know as well as I do that the county health department spends a lot of time investigating health problems related to activities at private rubble fills," said Mr. Glassman, who represents the northern section of the county. "The money would help to make the health department a little more self-sufficient."
Terry Stancill, whose family operates Pappy's Inc., declined to comment on the fee's potential impact on business.
But J. Robert Hooper, owner of Harford Sanitation Inc., the county's largest private trash hauler, said a tipping fee for private rubble fills "could very well price them [Pappy's Inc.] out of the market."
Mr. Hooper, who represented District D before Mr. Glassman, said Pappy's fees have risen from about $90 a load to $130 in the past three years, "and they're struggling with it now."
A load is about 30 cubic yards of construction debris.
He said a higher tipping fee could make it worthwhile to haul the rubble to fills in other counties where no additional county tipping fee is charged, thus taking business away from Pappy's.
Higher disposal costs would ultimately be passed on to customers, who include developers and homebuilders who generate construction debris such as concrete, boards and roofing.
Local developer Bob Ward, president of Bob Ward Inc., said, "Certainly if we have to pay an additional charge, it will get passed on to the homeowner. No doubt about that."
John Goheen, a spokesman for the state Department of the Environment, said Mr. Glassman's proposal is unique. No other county is known to charge a tipping fee at private rubble fills, he said.
Pappy's became the only remaining private rubble fill in the county after the state last year shut down Spencer Sand & Gravel Inc.'s rubble fill in Abingdon.
Spencer's site was closed by the state after the business accepted too much waste, and high levels of suspected carcinogens were found in monitoring wells.
A third site, owned by Maryland Reclamation Associates Inc., has a state operating permit but cannot operate because of ongoing lawsuits.
Mr. Glassman's proposal is the latest effort by the County Council to put more stringent controls on the operations of private rubble fills.
The council's battle against rubble fills started when members took office two years ago and tried to block Maryland Reclamation's efforts to start a rubble fill.
The council then tightened zoning regulations, limiting considerably possible sites for new rubble fills.
Over the past several years, Harford lawmakers have been troubled by rubble woes, including infestation of American cockroaches at the Oak Avenue rubble fill in Joppa before it opened for business, as well as the discovery of suspected carcinogens in monitoring wells at the Abingdon rubble fill.
In recent months, Mr. Glassman and two other council members have advocated creating a county-owned rubble fill. A study of how much it would cost to accept rubble at the existing Scarboro landfill site near Dublin is under way.
Harford's state delegates have not said whether they'll support Mr. Glassman's tipping fee measure, but they must decide by Friday, the filing deadline for all legislation to be considered in the current General Assembly session.
Mr. Glassman's request follows on the heels of a state bill introduced by state Sen. William H. Amoss, D-Harford, that would require all future rubble fills to be operated or owned by the county in which they are located.