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There's no good place for garbage, or the places that have to deal with it. The Scarboro Landfill the northern end of the county isn't popular with the people who live near it. The existing waste-to-energy incinerator in Joppa has plenty of detractors living along the road garbage trucks use to get to it. And, lately, there has been plenty of anger about whether a trash transfer station should be built on Route 7 in Joppa at the site of the defunct Coleman Plecker's World of Golf.

Generally speaking, a trash disposal or handling facility is not a subject that lends itself to a calm discussion of all the options or to an easy conclusion based on what's best for everyone, especially if your home is going to be nearby.

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Certainly there are things that can be done to minimize the impact, but not necessarily every impact. If trucks are involved, there will still be traffic, no matter how you route them. Tax breaks may mitigate the presence of odors or the potential for well contamination, as in the case of those living around the Scarboro and Joppa sites, but those reductions are unlikely to offset the adverse impact on your property's worth when you go to sell it.

It remains to be seen whether the idea of building a trash transfer station in Joppa is one that could work without becoming a blight on the surrounding area. Such facilities exist in other jurisdictions and can be made to have a relatively low profile – truck traffic not withstanding. But we are also talking plopping down a trash handling facility at one of our county's gateways – the I-95/Route 152 interchange, which is a little like visiting the industrial town of your choice.

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Aside from the Joppa community's obvious concerns, it's hard to understand why the question of developing a trash transfer station hasn't been more at the forefront of public discussion over the entire county. This is going to represent a major shift in public policy regarding how Harford County ultimately gets rid of its trash. It's plan that will make the county even more reliant on the actions and decisions of others outside our borders, people over whom we have no direct control – who aren't elected by us or accountable for spending our tax dollars or a significant part of our household budgets.

We started down this road with an official presumption that the impending closure of the existing waste-to-energy incinerator on Aberdeen Proving Ground property – in whose construction Harford County taxpayers made a major investment – means there will be no local replacement. Bear in mind that as recently a two years ago, the county executive was giving everyone assurances that fears regarding the impending death of the existing incinerator were unfounded and the county's trash would not become the hostage of some scheme over which its citizens and their elected representatives would have no control.

Yet here we are being locked into a deal that looks a lot like it's being made up as we go along. The plan now calls garbage collected across much Harford County to be trucked to the transfer station and then transferred, via bigger trucks using I-95, to a yet-to-be-built waste to energy plant supposedly to be operated by a company called Energy Answers, under the auspices of Maryland Environmental Service, a state sanctioned agency that frankly has no business existing, except that it exists to maintain its own existence.

In other words, there's no guaranteed place for the trash to be transferred to, and there's no guarantee that a new waste-to-energy plant ever will be built.

There's also in fact no guarantee that two or three years from now, the trash won't start piling up at the new Joppa transfer station and inside the gates of Scarboro Landfill, while the county frantically searches for a permanent place to get rid of it, undoubtedly at a prohibitive cost that will come back to bite every household and business right in the wallet.

Before one more local tax dollar is spent and likely wasted, the county, state and federal governments need to make it crystal clear to the public exactly what is going on with the existing Joppa waste-to-energy plant; when, where and if the Energy Answers plant will be built; and, above all, why the county needs to build a waste transfer station when most of this trash is already being collected by private companies and then shipped to another private company for incineration.

It might also help if somebody behind all these current machinations would fess up and explain how much all this is going to cost Joe and Jane citizen of Harford County, both in terms of the taxes they pay and the money most of them fork over each month to have a private company come and haul away their trash.

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