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Except for recyclable materials, most of the trash generated daily by Harford County residents ends up being disposed of inside the county’s borders, either by burning it at an incinerator in Joppa or by burying it at the county’s only landfill in Scarboro.

That system could change dramatically by the end of the decade, however, because a deal is in the works to transport most of the trash from the most populated areas of Harford to be burned in a new incinerator being proposed in either Baltimore County or Baltimore City.

Several informed sources say a location on the far east side of Baltimore City is the most likely possibility.

Bob Cooper, the county’s public works director, said at a quarterly meeting of county officials recently that the status of the existing waste-to-energy incinerator in Joppa is in federal hands.

“It’s in the hands of the Army right now. The Army has taken over the project and we are still trying to determine when they will be able to get that project moving,” Cooper told the roomful of local elected officials, in response to an inquiry from Havre de Grace councilman Jim Miller.

“We are looking at some other alternatives at this time,” Cooper added.

Dion Guthrie, the county councilman representing the Edgewood and Joppa areas, acknowledged in earlier interviews that plans for an incinerator in Baltimore City are already moving forward, so any plans to still build something in the Route 40 corridor would be in addition to the Baltimore project.

County Council President Billy Boniface, however, implied the county is also looking into other ways of dealing with its trash.

“That’s just one alternative,” Boniface said about the incinerator at the quarterly meeting. “We are looking at other options ... There’s a lot of things we are looking at, but we realize it’s a priority for the county.”

At one of the county council’s work session last month on the 2012 budget, Guthrie asked the environmental services division how its plans for a new landfill cell would work with the new waste-to-energy facility in Baltimore.

Mary Kate Herbig, the county council’s assistant attorney, said the council would still have a say on any waste-to-energy facility the federal government or Harford and other counties in the region may become involved with.

“You will have a say on that legislatively,” she said. “It still has to go in our solid waste energy plan. What we do with our garbage will go in our solid waste energy plans.”

The Joppa incinerator is located on the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground. The county owns the plant, but the federal government owns the land.

George Mercer, a spokesman for Aberdeen Proving Ground, said Tuesday that although he could not guarantee a new facility would be built, the Army was still talking with the county daily and was “absolutely” keeping Harford in the loop.

“APG is still committed to a waste-to-energy plant at APG,” he said. “Our commitment has not wavered in terms of doing the right thing.”

He said he could not, however, give any specific details about where the process stood.

The possible deal to take Harford County trash to a new incinerator in Baltimore County or Baltimore City initially involved the Maryland Environmental Service, an independent state agency headed by former Harford county executive Jim Harkins.

Sources say Harkins and his second-in-command, John O’Neill, a Harford resident who worked in the county government before leaving with Harkins for MES, have held private meetings with key Harford officials over the past few months to pitch the incinerator plan.

Bob Thomas, a spokesman for the Harford County government, said recently an announcement about any future incinerator project is not imminent.

Guthrie has been casting an anxious eye on future solid waste disposal plans in Harford County, and what might happen if the trash that is being burned in the waste-to-energy incinerator at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeen Proving Ground is sent somewhere else.

The current APG incinerator is reaching the end of its useful life.

Built in the mid-1980s, the facility burns trash from Harford and Baltimore counties to generate steam that is in turn sold to the Army to heat and cool buildings at APG.

Until the past two years, the assumption had been that the Army and the county, working through a regional waste disposal authority that was originally set up to aid in the development of the APG plant, would simply modernize and expand the incinerator at its existing location.

Last year, however, the Army struck out on its own to solicit proposals with the intention of possibly developing its own incinerator, a move which left county officials in a lurch about the future.

In an interview last fall, Harford County Executive David Craig said he was considering alternative places or means to dispose of the county’s trash in the event burning it under some kind of arrangement with the Army fell through.

Craig said one alternatives might involve shipping the county’s non recyclable trash in trucks or rail cars to dump sites in the South or the mountains, something already done by a number of East Coast jurisdictions, Philadelphia among them.

Or, Craig said, the county might be involved in some partnership to build a new incinerator not located on APG.

In any case, he said he wasn’t ready to write off the possibility of the county being involved in a new incinerator on the site of the existing one, which he also noted wouldn’t have to be decommissioned for at least four to six years.

But if the Army’s intentions to go it alone do bear fruit, then the county may indeed have to look elsewhere to get rid of its trash, Craig admitted.

The new incinerator previously planned in Harford County would have produced steam and electricity, and would have been capable of handing an increase the amount of the county’s trash that can be burned daily from 360 tons to 1,500 tons.

“It’s all up in the air and everybody’s talking about it, but I’m looking for something signed in ink,” Guthrie said recently.

Estimates Guthrie has heard say the new Baltimore City incinerator will cost $1 billion, and Harford County will be responsible for a significant contribution to the construction cost.

But, he also said he hasn’t heard anything definitely that a new incinerator won’t be built at APG or won’t be taking trash from Harford in the future.

“I haven’t heard anything about that not going through,” he said. “I have heard they are contemplating a much larger facility in Baltimore [City] with the thought of getting some trash from Harford County to put in the new plant.”

Guthrie nevertheless said he thinks an incinerator will definitely be somewhere and will burn Harford County trash.

“I guess it’s depending on where it’s going to get built,” he said. “I think the Army is still looking at it. I think they’re dragging their feet a little bit... I think the Army is going to have a problem if they don’t make some kind of deal with somebody soon.”

Guthrie seemed uncertain about whether it would be good or bad for the incinerator to be out of Harford County completely.

He said he was mostly concerned about his and residents’ conditions being met, such as providing an access road to the site and their past concerns about property devaluation.

He was likewise upset when the state legislature last month failed to pass a bill to extend property tax credits for people living near the existing incinerator which is at the eastern end of Route 152.

“Right now, I would have to say that unless they do the things we said they would do, it wouldn’t be good [for Harford County],” he said.

user comments (2)

user bsizzle says...

Don't shut down the plant they order food and i deliver, therefore this hurts me. besides it's going to cost a a buttload to ship it, and what the heck would you want to bury it for!

user bsizzle says...

Don't shut down the plant they order food and i deliver, therefore this hurts me. besides it's going to cost a a buttload to ship it, and what the heck would you want to bury it for!




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