SALISBURY – Plans to expand a county landfill were called into question this week.
Last Tuesday, several county residents came before the Wicomico County Council to share their concerns regarding an expansion to the county’s Newland Park Landfill.
In January, the county council agreed to acquire 43 acres of land located along Brick Kiln Road in Salisbury to expand the adjacent landfill, and county staff applied for disposal permits from the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).
Decisions to expand the landfill, however, were called into question this week from several nearby residents who recently learned of the county’s plans.
Salisbury resident Katrina Purnell said she learned more about the landfill expansion at an informational meeting hosted by MDE last week and questioned the expansion’s impact on the health and safety nearby citizens.
“When we first moved over there we had to change the septic system because the septic tanks we had were tin and the nitrate level in that area was already high and put holes in there …,” she said. “I’m tired of everything that’s a negative being on the west side of the Wicomico River, and nothing positive comes our way. There has got to be another site.”
Another resident agreed.
“It seems like the negatives have always been on the west side of town,” she said, pointing out examples such as an incinerator, chicken farm, highway and more. “I’m hoping that anyone who has something to do with the location of the landfill will take these factors into consideration and will think of other sites … Please think of all of your constituents before making your decision.”
Resident Eddie Boyd added he was concerned about the proposed sites for the landfill expansion. While the county council agreed to pursue an expansion to the south of the landfill, he said MDE officials last week also presented a proposal for a northern expansion.
“They said it’s on the table until there is some written notice provided to them saying it’s off the table,” he said.
Boyd said he would also like to see the county participate in a discussion about solid waste disposal and its alternatives.
“This decision, in my judgement, was a rushed decision …,” he said. “We need to slow the process down and hold a discussion on the disposal of solid waste in this county without burying it.”
Councilman Ernie Davis, who represents the residents on the west side of Salisbury, said he and other council members were also shocked to see a northern expansion plan added to the proposal.
“We were under the impression that the northern site was not to be considered because we were not going to purchase it and we had given approval for the southern site,” he said. “We, too, were caught off guard.”
Davis added that he supported other locations and methods for solid waste disposal.
“You can’t put a price on peoples’ health, and just to say this is a cost-effective way to do something does not mean it’s always right,” he said. “There are other ways to dispose of the trash, and I think it should be considered.”
Councilman Marc Kilmer said county leaders spend a lot of time talking about solid waste disposal and proposed alternatives, but said many ideas are cost prohibitive and lacked the required technology.
“The county is definitely exploring other options besides putting trash in the ground,” he said. “If the technology is there to dispose of trash without putting it in the ground and it doesn’t overburden the taxpayers, every county official in this room would welcome that.”
Weston Young, the county’s assistant director of administration, assured residents that proposals for a northern expansion – which were submitted to MDE before the council opposed the idea – were not being considered. He noted, however, that the landfill had existing infrastructure to justify expanding the landfill at its current location.
“What we are trying to do is keep things economically feasible,” he said.
Young proposed county leaders listen to residents’ concerns and ideas regarding the landfill in a series of public meetings.
“When we had a series of drainage issues across the county, we held drainage meetings across the county,” he said. “I think it would be beneficial to talk solid waste because there is a lot of misinformation about what goes on at the landfill.”