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State blocks landfill's expansion


In a long-fought-for victory for area residents, the state has denied an application to expand a rubble landfill in Gambrills, noting the business' bad performance in the past and the community's concerns.

The Maryland Department of the Environment issued the decision Monday to deny James E. Cunningham, owner of Cunningham Excavating and Cunningham Asphalt, the state refuse disposal permit for the landfill near Capital Raceway.

During a five-month process, the MDE reviewed the large amount of written and oral comments and the "extensive history of non-compliance" at the site to reach its decision.

Residents near the proposed site had been fighting the move because they felt it would threaten their health.

"We are thrilled with the MDE decision, that they decided to safeguard the health and safety of thousands of residents in West County," said Elise G. Rand, a member of the Greater Gambrills Citizens Pollution Task Force. "This is really a victory for the future of our community, especially for the children who live here."

Cunningham was out of town and could not be reached for comment on the decision.

His lawyer, Michael R. Roblyer, said yesterday that his client will appeal the decision.

The proposed location is next to Cunningham's closed rubble landfill, a disposal facility for nonhazardous solid waste. During the MDE inspection last year, three illegal dump sites on the landfill property were discovered. Material including old tires and auto parts were among the debris near the Patuxent River. In January, the state ordered him to clean up these sites.

The MDE also confirmed at least five "orders for operation" without a permit, some dating back to the 1980s.

"This department has invested great effort in the past to force the applicant to bring his facility into compliance," said Richard Collins, director of the MDE's Waste Management Administration. "A disregard for the need to comply with Maryland's environmental laws continues to the present, which is unacceptable."

Norman Myers, who lives within 1,500 feet of the proposed site, said yesterday he didn't want the landfill near his neighborhood because he has three children and five grandchildren who live in the area, and he's concerned for their health.

He called the site a "disaster area" because it was too close to a school, church and park, where many area children play.

"It's the wrong place and the wrong time at this point," he said.

During the application review process, the MDE held a public meeting in December 1999 and a public hearing in February. About 500 residents attended the last meeting, Rand said.

She said the residents gathered hundreds of signatures on petitions against the landfill, and many wrote letters to the MDE.

"It really strikes at the heart of this community," she said. "This is a quality of life issue for people living here," she said.

She said the residents will continue to fight the proposal through the appeals process.

"We stand firm in our opposition to the landfill," she said. "That won't change."

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