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Group aims to curb dumping of fly ash


A group of Marley Neck residents is banding together in an effort to restrict future dumping of fly ash from Baltimore Gas and Electric's coal-fired generators at Brandon Shores and Wagner Point power plants.

Although BG&E; gave in to community pressure in September and withdrew a plan to create mounds of fly ash in the corner of an industrial park, community leaders say they believe BG&E;'s reversal may be only temporary.

"This is like round one of 12 rounds," said Carl Hackmann, spokesman for the Coalition of Communities and Citizens Against Fly Ash. "We're set up for the long haul."

Joseph Schreiber of Constellation Properties, BG&E;'s property development subsidiary, said the company is reconsidering its fly ash placement policy and promised to involve the community in future discussions.

In the meantime, he said, the power company will continue to use the ash to grade lots at its Chestnut Hills Farm industrial park in the same manner that it used the ash to grade and develop its Brandon Woods Industrial Park.

The citizens coalition has vowed to fight any efforts by BG&E; to increase the depths of its fly ash placement at Chestnut Hill and say the group's long-term goal is to eliminate fly ash dumping altogether.

About 40,000 residents live in the area along Solley Road, in the communities of Chestnut Hill Farms, Orchard Beach, Stony Beach, Riviera Beach and Sunset Beach. Many are concerned that their neighborhood is becoming a dumping ground for unwanted refuse. The area already has several landfills, a trash composting facility and two medical waste incinerators.

"We're at a real crossroads," Mr. Hackmann said. "If BG&E; is allowed to proceed, it will change the character of the area."

Although residents opposed the creation of fly ash mounds because they believed they would be unsightly and hinder future development, the community also was concerned about the health implications. The residue from coal fires once was considered a hazardous waste but has been removed from the Environmental Protection Agency's list.

There have been no proven side effects, but "no one knows the long-term impact," Mr. Hackmann said.

Until now, the community generally has been satisfied with BG&E;'s disposal of fly ash in the development of its 200-acre Brandon Woods Industrial Park.

But Mr. Hackmann said the community is disappointed that the utility's promises of economic development and job growth in the area have been unfulfilled.

Mr. Schreiber conceded that sales of the lots in the industrial park have been slow because of the economy, but expressed faith that the land eventually would become a desirable site for businesses.

Mr. Hackmann said the coalition ultimately hopes to persuade BG&E; to find alternative uses for fly ash. "We recognize it's a difficult problem," he said.

Fly ash can be converted to building materials, although the process is expensive, he said. The Brandon Shores and Wagner Point plants generate 400,000 tons of fly ash a year. BG&E; calculates that at its current rate of consuming fly ash for grading and leveling, it will run out of room to dispose of it in seven years.

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