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HOWARD COUNTY'S TRASH makes a pit stop...


HOWARD COUNTY'S TRASH makes a pit stop in Annapolis Junction before it travels to a landfill in Kings County, Va. In Annapolis Junction, workers load waste from small trucks onto larger ones at a trash transfer station that is the handoff point before the trip to Virginia. The facility, owned by Houston-based USA Waste, is the only transfer site of its kind in the area.

And that may be a problem.

Indeed, Howard County benefits from USA Waste's low fees. The company last year easily beat competitors in bidding for the county's residential trash disposal for the next six years. USA Waste won the contract by agreeing to charge an unusually low $33 a ton for the county's residential waste. Browning-Ferris Industries, operating without a transfer station, wasn't even close with its $44.89-a-ton bid. The county struck a good deal as it does business with a facility gaining a foothold in the area.

The problem could come the next time the county's waste contract is up for bid. If USA Waste still has a trash transfer monopoly then, it probably would be able to charge far higher prices. Competition for the county's waste disposal should always be fierce, to keep costs low. For this reason, the county's zoning board must take the political heat that is bound to come from the community of Elkridge and approve BFI's proposed transfer station for U.S. 1 and Cemetery Lane.

That would be an unpopular decision. But the closest residential community has a buffer zone of more than a half-mile from the industrial area where the station would operate, next to BFI's current recycling plant. Most of the truck traffic would use U.S. 1 and Interstate 95. There is no more appropriate site in the county.

The zoning board, whose members also make up the County Council, has been down this road before. Little has changed since the board first approved the BFI site in 1994. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals threw out that decision on a procedural error.

The court ruled that the county must have a compelling reason to allow a trash transfer station in an area zoned for light manufacturing. Competition is that reason. Promoting competition among two or more two strong haulers is one way for the county to keep taxpayer costs for waste disposal as low as possible.

Pub Date: 3/07/97

Competition needed in trash disposal; BFI's transfer station would protect residents from waste monopoly.

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