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Raising Cain over Harford dump

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Given Harford County's tortured history with landfills, both illegal and authorized, it is hard to believe that officials have quietly allowed operation of an unlicensed dump they have known about for four years. Granted, the county made a feeble legal stab at challenging the dumping on the Abingdon cattle farm of Michael J. Kozub last fall. But it quickly backed off rather than standing up for its citizens and the environment.

Only last month did County Executive Eileen Rehrmann ask the state Department of Environment, which licenses landfills, for 'enforcement assistance,' this following months of unheeded complaints by Harford residents already annoyed with the sloppy management on the nearby, now-closed Spencer landfill.

The reason given for the county's timidity is a questionable 1987 state court decision upholding farmer rights to dump dirt and fill material on their land if it is directly related to agricultural activity. The Harford Soil Conservation District, which advises on such farm matters, insists that ruling does not apply to the Kozub property.

The state shares responsibility for this official acquiescence. Contractors for the State Highway Administration have dumped large amounts of fill on the farm during road construction projects in Harford. Some of that material is rubble that is not allowed to be dumped on farmland without permit. SHA denies responsibility for its contractors' disposal decisions.

While aware of these operations for some time, the state Department of Environment has not moved to require refuse disposal or grading permits from Mr. Kozub. The purpose of this massive landfilling appears clear: Mr. Kozub wishes to build a grass airstrip on the farm. He was denied approval by the county for such a strip back in 1990. He now talks of having an airstrip on the flattened area, perhaps operating an air taxi between Harford and the metropolitan airports. He doesn't have federal, state or local approval for the airstrip.

Authorities are aware of this intention. They know the land leveling isn't to benefit his few head of livestock. They should also know that unpermitted refuse has been seen in the landfill, that neighbors have complained of illegal uncovered dump trucks. It's high time that the county and state took a strong stand, even if it costs some money and legal effort, to stop this environmental insult.

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