Landfill expansion needs raise concern

As plans continue for expansion of the Wicomico County Landfill, informational meetings will be planned, with time for resident input.

Meetings were suggested by Assistant County Administrator Weston Young, at a recent County Council meeting, especially since misinformation recently circulated in the community.

Residents who live on the west side of the county received letters from the Maryland Department of the Environment informing them the Wicomico County Landfill could expand north, toward Route 50, affecting their neighborhoods.

Concerned and objecting, several residents came to the County Council meeting to tell council members their understanding was northern expansion would not be considered.

Assistant County Administrator Weston Young explained county administration sent the possibility of northern expansion to the state as an option “to get our foot in the door” before County Council members decided against it, prompting the MDE to mail letters to Salisbury residents.

Wicomico County doesn’t even own the property where northern expansion could be, and it won’t happen now because it “has been taken off the table,” by the County Council, Young said.

“If we acquire that property, we would use it as a borrow pit for dirt necessary to cover trash at the landfill,” he said.

“The landfill requires 1 foot of dirt on top of every 8 feet of trash. At the end of every night, another 6 inches of dirt is placed on top, to keep packs of dogs and rats away. It cuts down on insects and on the smell,” he said.

The need for soil will increase as the landfill gets bigger.

Councilman Ernest Davis confirmed letters that concerned West Side residents were not sent by the county. Council only approved expanding the landfill to the south, and when he received a phone call about possible northern expansion, “I was shocked,” Davis said.

“The council was caught off guard,” he said.

Agreeing, Council President John Cannon said the Council is adamantly opposed to expanding north.

The landfill will last another 22 years with no expansion, Young said, less than he originally calculated because the amount of trash going in has been increasing.

If the county accepts the proposed donation of Connelly Mill property, dirt can be used to cover the trash.

If dirt has to be purchased, it will cost the county $10 per cubic yard, or a total of $13 million.

“We can mine Connelly Mill for over $5 million. It’s significantly cheaper,” Young said.

Not expanding the landfill could force the county to ship waste to another landfill by truck, barge or rail, Young said.

“And if we do that, we’re at the whim of what landfill will accept it and the cost of trucking it to northern New Jersey or to the northwest,” he said.

“We have one of the highest recycling rates in the state, so we’re doing great with recycling. If we can educate people on recycling, maybe we can expand the landfill even further,” he said.

During Public Comments at the County Council meeting, Mary Ashanti, president of the Wicomico County NAACP and west side resident, said on hot days there is sometimes an unpleasant odor from the landfill.

“I have a concern about the way it’s been handled. A few people being notified by registered mail and not everyone having an input. I don’t know what you can do, but you are the County Council, so I’m thinking you have some say over what the Department of Public Works does,” Ashanti said.

Also during Public Comments, resident Eddie Boyd said he was “rather taken aback” by the letter from the MDE.

“First thing I would ask is, that it be removed from the table in the right way, whereby this initial proposal be modified in writing so the only site that is in the proposal is the site called the Southern Expansion Area,” Boyd said.

“Let’s figure out how we can do that so no citizen in the county is negatively impacted … without burying it and possibly creating problems for those of us who live near the site,” he said.

Comments underscored the importance of public, informational meetings, Young said.

“Having discussions would help educate and we could get input. Maybe we need to look into incinerating and spending tens of millions of dollars on that type of technology. I think having the conversation, maybe having someone from the MDE come here, would be beneficial,” Young said.

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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