Residents opposed to ‘north Dorchester skyscraper’ landfill

MD-county meeting beulah landfill
CAMBRIDGE — The May 5 Dorchester County Council meeting opened the floor to citizens who wished to express emotionally charged views about the proposed vertical expansion of the Beulah landfill. They had the opportunity at a public hearing held to amend the county’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) as legally required.

At a March 4, 2014 County Council meeting, Public Works Director Tom Moore asked the council to amend a 2006 agreement based on a recommendation by Geosyntec, the county’s landfill consultant, to expand the Beulah landfill and fulfill its future needs by considering a vertical extension of 68’ to raise the height from its current 107’ to 175.’

At the time, Mr. Moore noted that such expansion is “a very economical way to increase capacity” since permits for horizontal expansion can be extremely expensive. He said, “At the current use rate it would add about 6 years.” With the existing life expectancy of about 3 years, the addition would extend the life to 9 years. The council voted 4-1 to proceed.

District 4 Councilman Rick Price voted against the proposal based on constituent complaints. However, language in the SWMP cannot be altered without public meetings and public hearings which at the time were not held. The May 5 council meeting was a requisite public hearing about proposed revisions to the SWMP, including the vertical expansion.

Geosyntec engineer Jeremy Morris presented an overview of some proposed changes to the landfill. The current lined footprint of the landfill is 26 acres. The current 107’ limit space will be exhausted by 2017. A vertical expansion will allow an additional 450,000 cubic yards of waste for disposal until it is full in 2024.

Mr. Morris noted that a vertical expansion maximizes the use of current county resources. A new horizontal landfill could cost $2-3 million capital expenditures. The engineer said waste can go on top of the existing infrastructure safely and with environmental protection.

Resident Glen Payne recounted a previous battle in the late 1990s with Waste Management’s plan to go vertical. A large group of north Dorchester citizens managed to halt the project via a successful lawsuit. Mr. Payne stood against vertical expansion and suggested major emphasis on recycling to reduce the amount of litter in the landfill.

Hurlock resident Pat Finley noted the “trash pile” is already visible over the tree lines and opposes an expansion that would turn the pile into a “north Dorchester skyscraper.”

A veteran of the 90s battle, Gloria Dolan is a 35-year resident of the county. A vertical expansion opponent, she feels the proposal goes against the “core of the Comprehensive Plan. Property values would decline and the $300 million dollar savings would be “on the backs of property owners.” Horizontal expansion will be required after the current site is filled.

Ms. Dolan said that until 2014 vertical expansion was not in the waste management plan. “Language suddenly and mysteriously appeared throughout the document without public input, meetings or hearings or any known vote by the County Council to adopt this solid waste management plan.” Before you can vote to raise the height “you need vertical expansion language which allows it first.”

Ken Heesh, president of Concerned Citizens of Northern Dorchester, was involved in the successful halt of Waste Management’s proposed vertical expansion. To put protections in place the group added new language preventing any county landfill over 107’ above mean sea level. He explained that in 2005, a draft management plan from Geosyntec re-wrote the language and “removed almost all the safeguards. They and the county tossed the former plan and waited until the deadline to start work. We refused to approve it until 2008 when all the safeguards were restored.”

Options, all without vertical expansion he said, would have cleaned up the site and planned for solid waste management until 2034 or beyond. The project “will cost millions more in the long run. Who wants to live next to the landfill which is already seen from Hurlock town limits? Vertical expansion is the wrong way to go.”

Michael Simpson, a Hurlock resident for over 10 years, opposes the expansion because “I don’t think you need the dump to go higher since you already can see it from Hurlock.”

Several people felt raising the height would negatively impact the Veterans’ Cemetery adjacent to the landfill. Bill Windsor said it is a “very sacred place” and he would not want his children to visit his grave viewing a 175’ trash pile. “I find it despicable.” The trees will not grow higher than 60-70’. When you go up another 75’ “are we going to go to California and get some redwoods?”

Heather Danis and her husband are both veterans and own property next to the landfill. For them, raising the trash pile in view of the cemetery is an “absolute disgrace.”

Vietnam veteran Dennis Lanham whose parents and daughter are buried at the Veterans’ Cemetery said, “I don’t like what I see at the cemetery now and I certainly don’t want it to get any worse.

East New Market Councilman David Tolley spoke on behalf of the town and council in opposition to a vertical expansion. “Do what’s right for the people who live in the area so future generations don’t have to worry about tackling that problem,” he said, and building the site to 175’ is a “travesty.” He asked, “What would you do if you were living next to it?”
Realtor Beverly Era described the “negative impact” the vertical expansion will have on property. She suggested hiring a local appraiser to “get the facts on how detrimental this will be on area homeowners.”

Suzanne Trice’s 18th century farm borders the landfill. She lamented that after the citizens’ successful fight to prevent vertical expansion in the 90s, the council is changing the rules again. “We need to be able to trust what you told us you would do.”

Hurlock Councilman Earl Murphy suggested that “everyone here tonight is asking the council to hear their concerns.” He hopes the council takes other ideas into account before a final decision. Hurlock, he said, is ready to recycle and help limit the landfill’s capacity.

During manager’s comments, the council approved a low bid of $747,810 to purchase a landfill compactor. Using rebates to offset some costs, the final amount was $595,516. The council also voted to advertise for a contractual position to manage the overdue “capping” of the Old Beulah section of the landfill.

According to Council President Ricky Travers, the comment period will be open for 30 days following the May 5 meeting but only via written comments.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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