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Neighbors of leaky landfill skeptical of owner's plan for resealing


Neighbors of a closed hazardous-waste landfill where environmental protections have failed told state officials last night that they want the Solley Road facility resealed but that they also doubt the effectiveness of the steps the landfill's owner has proposed to stop the spread of cancer-causing contaminants.

"We have reservations," said Mary Rosso, who heads the Maryland Waste Coalition.

About 20 people, most from Marley Neck, attended last night's hearing held by the Maryland Department of the Environment on the proposed recapping of about 8 acres of the 146-acre site.

The agency has tentatively decided to issue a permit that would let Browning-Ferris Industries, the landfill's owner, recompact the existing clay cap and top it with a vinyl liner, 9 inches of chipped tires, a fabric cover and 18 inches of dirt and sewage sludge.

But some test wells have shown that pockets of ground water on the peninsula are contaminated, and neighbors said they fear that what BFI wants to do is not enough.

Neighbors contend that the steel-belted tire chips would pierce the liner and make it ineffective, although BFI's consultant has said otherwise. They also do not want the county's waste-water treatment plants to accept treated water from the site and indicated that they do not trust BFI to clean up a site that has leaked since before it was closed in 1982.

BFI has moved to appease the community by providing up to $50,000 for an independent consultant to check the information in BFI's federal and state permit applications, providing a toll-free number for neighbors to call and other measures. The consultant's report is due at the end of this month.

Also last night, the county Board of Appeals handed BFI a victory, voting 5-1 to give the Houston company a grading permit to begin to recap most of the landfill. The permit applies to the approximately 18-acre west fill and half of the east fill, which is about 10 acres.

BFI officials said they expect to begin that work in April but would not comment further.

"I'm disappointed," said S. John Blumenthal, who had challenged the county's issuance of the grading permit. "I thought our issues were very viable and very strong." He has not decided whether to challenge the board's vote in Circuit Court.

Mr. Blumenthal, whose adjacent property shows ground water contamination coming from the landfill, has filed a $100 million federal lawsuit against BFI. In the suit, he contends that the pollution has made it impossible for him to get financing to build about 738 townhouses there, making his land worthless.

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