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Residents afraid of landfill Stories from other areas raise concern


Sandy Lange and Donna Houseman live with rubble landfill every day. And they recently told residents of the White Marsh-Perry Hall area how bad that kind of life can be.

"I can't open the windows of my house or enjoy sitting in my backyard because of the dust and terrible rotten-egg odor," said Ms. Lange, who lives near the Brandywine rubble landfill in Prince George's County.

She and Ms. Houseman told their stories to more than 150 residents, who gathered Thursday night at Joppa View Elementary School in White Marsh to discuss a proposal to develop a rubble landfill and recycling center on 68 acres west of Philadelphia Road and south of Cowenton Avenue.

The meeting was held by the White Marsh Civic Association, which was formed recently to fight the proposed Honeygo Landfill and Reclamation Center.

Baltimore County officials say the need for the center is critical. And, they pledged to meet all environmental and community concerns.

Ms. Houseman cautioned against banking on those promises.

"Let me tell you, based on our experiences, all the assurances you hear at public meetings aren't lived up to once the landfill is in operation," she said. "When those rubble trucks start coming down your road, you citizens are on your own."

Ms. Houseman, who lives near the Oak Avenue rubble landfill in Harford County, said her house has been so infested with roaches coming from the landfill that she has had to move out several times. Sometimes, she said, her house shakes from the heavy equipment and machinery at the landfill.

The proposed Baltimore County site is just south of Honeygo Run, which empties into the Bird River less than a mile away. Adam Paul, president of the White Marsh group, said the land is part of the Bird River flood plain. Any contaminants that get into the landfill will leak into the stream, he said.

"This project could have a harmful effect on the Bird River watershed, the river itself and the Chesapeake Bay, which it feeds," said Mr. Paul, who noted that neighborhood groups in Perry Hall, Nottingham, Arrow Acres and Victory Villa have joined in opposing the project.

Marie Q. Simoes, president of the Nottingham Improvement Association, said the project "could not only be detrimental to the immediate environment, but also to the quality of life in our communities."

Residents at Thursday's meeting contributed over $1,500 to hire expert and legal help.

The project is in the early stages of the development review process. If completed, it would include a recycling operation that would grind up and reprocess asphalt and concrete and "white goods" such as stoves and refrigerators and would turn tree stumps into mulch.

What can't be recycled would be buried in a rubble landfill, said John B. Gontrum, the attorney representing the developers, Wayne Knight and Charles Volpe, president and vice president of Honeygo Reclamation Center Inc. Mr. Knight owns a local trucking company.

Mr. Gontrum said the developers would restore the area after 10 years and return it to the county as a park.

Arnold F. "Pat" Keller, deputy county planning director, said the park is a laudable goal for an area that needs recreation land.

"It's how we get to that goal of a park for the community that is important," Mr. Keller said.

Ms. Simoes of the Nottingham association said the project would generate heavy truck traffic, noise and odors. She wondered if "enough forethought has been given to the project to protect what is already there -- our communities."

The experiences of Ms. Lange and Ms. Houseman struck a responsive chord within Irene Alban. Her home, on property her great-grandfather owned, is just across Honeygo Run from the proposed site.

"I was shocked by what those women had to say," said Mrs. Alban. "I didn't think it would be that bad. If we can't stop it, I don't know what I'd do. I couldn't live like that."

Stephen G. Lippy, chief engineer for the county Bureau of Solid Waste, said the project is in the county's revised 10-year Solid Waste Plan.

The only other rubble landfill in the county is operated by a private company near the Days Cove Eastern Sanitary Landfill off Pulaski Highway, a couple of miles from the Honeygo site. The owners of that landfill, which is near capacity, have asked the state for permission to expand, said Mr. Lippy.

"The Honeygo project would not only solve the rubble landfill problem, but also the reclamation part of it reduces our waste stream," said Mr. Lippy. "And, finally, the county itself doesn't want to get into the rubble landfill operation."

Mr. Keller, the deputy planning director, said the project must be done in a way that takes into account community concerns about noise, traffic and pollution. County development officials are reviewing the project to see how those concerns can be addressed, he said.

The project needs a special zoning exception from the county Zoning Commissioner's office. The plans also need approval from a special hearing examiner under the county's new development review process.

"After we get the special exception, we still have to receive at least a half-dozen county and state permits before we can construct the facility," Mr. Gontrum said.

Mr. Gontrum also said the developers have created a citizens' advisory committee and are meeting regularly with the group.

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