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Arundel's waste: the burning issue


A story in yesterday's Anne Arundel County editions of The Sun incorrectly identified James Martin. He is president of the Severn River Association. The Sun regrets the error.

Anne Arundel County Council members and environmentalists were impressed, but still skeptical, after touring a showplace trash-to-energy incinerator in Lancaster, Pa., yesterday.

"Well, it certainly softens my tone a little bit," said James Martin, president of the Severn River Commission and an opponent of such a plant in the county. "But I remain skeptical. I'm concerned about emissions. I'm concerned about finances. I'm concerned that Anne Arundel County doesn't have the competence to do this yet."

Maureen Lamb, council vice chairwoman, said she was not convinced Anne Arundel County needs an incinerator. "We have not explored the other things out there that will reduce our trash, to the extent that we need to turn to incineration," Ms. Lamb said.

But Councilwoman Diane Evans was more willing to consider the new technology.

"What was made clear to me is we can't recycle everything," she said. "Waste-to-energy makes sense, provided there is a strong recycling component and a strong reduction component."

County public works officials arranged the trip after the solid waste advisory commission suggested that the county look into incineration as an alternative to landfills as part of its 10-year waste disposal plan.

Lancaster's incinerator is run by the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, an independent agency that considers the plant the linchpin of its integrated solid waste management plan.

That plan also includes a recycling program and household hazardous-waste collection facility.

The Lancaster County Resource Recovery Facility, built for $105 million, opened in early 1991. It burns about 900 tons of trash a day and produces 35.5 kilowatts of electricity, enough to provide power for 18,000 to 20,000 homes, according to facility manager Glenn Hoag.

It has a capacity for 1,200 tons a day.

The amount of trash it burns from daily collections is supplemented by trash mined from the county's old landfill, extending the landfill's life by another 30 years, Mr. Hoag said.

The incinerator generated $39 million in revenue in 1992 from tipping fees and the electricity the solid waste authority sold to Metropolitan Edison, the local power company.

The annual expense to operate the plant was $44 million.

Herb Flosdorff, executive director of the Lancaster County solid waste authority, said incineration has cut the volume of trash that goes into the landfill by so much that "we have a belief that this county will never have to build another landfill."

He said Mr. Martin's fears of air pollution were unfounded because the plant's environmental scrubbing systems trap 99 percent of most pollutants in the smokestack.

In fact, incinerators improve air quality, he argued, "because for every kilowatt hour we make with trash is one less kilowatt hour we make with coal."

Mr. Flosdorff acknowledged, however, that selecting a site had been a difficult, two-year process during which he received death threats and threats to kidnap his children.

"It was ugly," he said, "because people get emotionally involved in this."

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