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State approves resealing of Solley Road landfill


State environmental officials this week approved the controversial resealing of 8 acres at the closed hazardous waste landfill on Solley Road near Pasadena.

The ruling comes 23 months after Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., owner of the landfill, first requested a permit for what it considered emergency work.

Though the landfill has been closed since 1982, cancer-causing pollutants have continued to leak underground.

Chunks of the old clay cap have slid off, letting rain seep in and trickle through the buried hazardous solvents. The Maryland Department of the Environment's permit is for a plastic liner to seal the landfill and a cap that contains clay.

The cap would be topped with shredded tires to allow for drainage. This layer would be topped with dirt and sludge. BFI hopes to grow grass on top of the landfill and has no plans to reopen the site.

Area residents have denounced the plan to use shredded tires. They're afraid the tires will decompose and that the metal in them could puncture the liner. Drainage layers usually are made from sand and gravel.

In March, Environmental Protection Agency officials said any tiny punctures in the liner would be insignificant.

"If there are any problems with the [tire] chips, we want that redone," said Mary Rosso, leader of a group formed this year to discuss community concerns with BFI.

The neighborhood committee wanted a synthetic underground wall on the western side of the landfill to contain the contamination and improved monitoring of the wells on the east side.

Mrs. Rosso said she doubted the group would contest the permit. She also said the group needed more details before making any decision.

State environmental officials were unavailable yesterday afternoon to discuss details of the permit.

People who live near the landfill or own property nearby have until Sept. 28 to contest the permit. BFI officials were unavailable for comment yesterday.

S. John Blumenthal, whose property next to the landfill has been contaminated by solvents, said he is unsure if he will contest the permit.

"Our concerns remain the same -- that in spite of 13 years of closure that the contamination still exists away from the landfill," he said. "It is an ongoing problem."

Mr. Blumenthal said ground water contamination forced him to abandon plans for a housing development on his 145 acres.

An underground stream of carcinogenic contaminants spread from the landfill into his property and headed for Marley Creek. Local officials have been attempting to clean the waterway of pollutants for more than a decade.

BFI had tried to draw the underground plume back onto its property, but was unsuccessful.

"The plume is still there," said George Krause, MDE spokesman.

An agreement allowing BFI to test wells on Mr. Blumenthal's expired on July 24. No testing has been done since, Mr. Krause said. Mr. Blumenthal is suing BFI, claiming the landfill contaminated his land. The trial is set for December in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Despite early failures, BFI has extracted some contaminated water, cleaned it and put it back into the ground water, said J. L. Hearn, director of water management administration of the Department of the Environment.

As long as that effort continues, BFI doesn't need to pursue permits to discharge treated water into county sewers or Marley Creek. The community opposed both options.

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