Montgomery County's proposal to acquire a 130-acre site in Potomac for a garbage landfill has raised the ire of residents who live near the site located south of River Road and west of the Beltway.
"Can't you build it in an industrial area?" asked one speaker during a meeting last week between a county environmental planner and 600 Potomac residents who balked at the idea of what most of them referred to as a "garbage dump" a short distance from their rambling houses.
The Potomac site is one of 24 under consideration by county officials. Others are in Muncaster, Gaitherburg, Darnestown, Germantown, Trvilah, and Spencerville. From these, the county will pick two to five for landfills.
"They're all upset," county environment planner Andrea Weirich said of residents in all the proposed locations.
She says she gets 50 phone calls a day protesting the proposed landfill sites and has received 700 to 800 letters so far this year. Seventy-five of them came last Wednesday.
As of June 1979, Weirich explained, one or several new sanitary landfill will be needed to replace the present 30 acre Guide-Southlawn landfill in Rockville. The new facilities are expected to solve, for at least 15 years, the problem of what to do with the 1,300 tons of refuse produced by Montgomery County residents each day.
Despite potomac residents' refusal to call it a "landfill," the proposed facility is not technically a dump, Weirich said.
"Dumps are the disposal sites . . ." Weirich said, where trucks come and "dump the waste in a pile." There is often open burning.
"Dumps were just foul dirty things," said Weirich.
A sanitary landfill, she explained to residents at last week's meeting, varies in depth - often to avoid ground water - and diameter. Garbage, of the variety that homeowners put in their trash cans, would be put in one section of the landfill in mid-morning and late afternoon, each time being covered by a layer of soil, according to transportation consultant Morris Rothenberg. He is studying the effects of the traffic of the garbage trucks going to the various sites.
When the landfill is set up, it is surrounded by extensive landscaping to act as a buffer between the site and the residential area, Weirich said. The site in Potomac is 340 acres, according to Weirich. "The only time you can smell anything is when you're standing right next to the landfill," she said.
The sessions with the public are for information exchange, she said.
"We learn some very important things from the residents," she said.
Standing in front of huge 5-foot-by-5-foot charts showing the criteria and the sites for the prospective landfills, Weirich told the meeting of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association last week, "We're trying to get all the facts we can. We want to get them out on the table."
She told the audience that sites eventually chosen will be selected only after detailed tests of area soil, ground water levels, and studies of traffic and community impact.
The audience responded in what Weirich later said was a typical manner for the communities that she has talked to. They asked curt, brief questions about technical aspects - which roads will be widened, how many trucks will traverse River Road.
"I'm willing to assume Potomac would make a perfectly good . . . dump," Joel Rudick of Falls Bridge Lane said with casual disgust. "I think we're here to say we don't want it here - we want to say to you, don't ruin a jewel of a community." The applause was fervent.
"If you allow this dump here for 10 years, the Potomac you and I came here to enjoy will be gone!" said Potomac resident John Dickerman.
The county executive will pick the needed sites after Weirich and the consultants make final recommendations next February.
Until the early 1960s, the WSSC disposed of Montgomery County trash. Then, in 1965, an incinerator in Rockville was closed because of technical problems and pollution. In 1974, the county proposed employing a private firm to haul the refuse by railroad daily to Smith Township, Ohio, but the residents there objected.
According to traffic consultant Morris Rothenberg, 40 acres has been acquired in Gaithersburg by the county to build a new refuse facility, a resource recovery plant. This type of facility salvages reusable materials such as tin and paper.
"We have a very difficult thing to do," Rothenberg comments. "But the county generates a tremendous amount of waste, and no one wants it. I don't envy the county executive."