It has been called a "creative disposal project," in which a mountain of household garbage would be turned into a park with a toboggan slide and an Alpine ski slope. But to the Old Bowie residents who live on the perimeter of the proposed landfill site on Rte. 197, the "creative disposal project" is still a garbage dump - and the residents are screaming.
"Something is going on," said Monica Schleidt, a Bowie resident who lives three blocks from the southern end of the site, "and it stinks."
Schleidt and the rest of her Bowie neighbors, along with Prince George's County and Maryland state officials, are now anxiously waiting for a verdict on whether or not the county will be permitted to use the landfill site for dumping the waste products of Laurel, Bowie, Greenbelt and College Park residents.
The State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene must grant a permit to the county to allow it to dump in the area. State hearing examiner John Zell said he expects to decide on the permit request this week.
Currently, Prince George's has four operating dumps - one on Brown Station Road in Upper Marlboro, the county seat; one near the Belair section of Bowie at Rte. 301 and 450; one in Laurel, and one at the agricultural research center in Beltsville. Last year, county residents tossed out more than 451,200 tons of garbage and trash.
According to the county's solid waste management plan, the Belair, Beltsville and Laurel sites were to be filled and phased out by December 1977, and a new site for the northern end of the county was to have opened last month.
But the new dump was to be different. County council members and solid waste planners went to DuPage County, Ill., to visit a facility operated by Waste Management Inc. The company had built a 1,400-acre park around a 200-acre landfill site. And Prince George's officials, in their continuing quest for "new quality" saw a "creative" plan for waste disposal.
"As far as esthetics, we were really impressed by what Waste Management had achieved," said Kenneth Duncan, county council administrative officer.
So the Park and Planning COmmission, with county approval, plunked down $800,000 from their park acquisition fund and bought the 218-acre Brevard property on Rte. 197 and Duckettstown Road and signed a contract with Waste Management. They put notices in the paper, they sent out officials to the Sierra Club and to the League of Women Voters, all to advise the Bowie residents of the new landfill.
But Dennis Trudo, whose home is next to the road leading to the proposed landfill, said he didn't know anything about the plan until he noticed bulldozers grading the former sand and gravel excavations last November and asked one of the drivers what they were doing.
More than 560 residents of old Bowie (approximately 500 houses are located there) signed petitions against the landfill site, meetings were held at the local firehouse, and the Coalition of Angry Neighbors (CAN) was formed.
Schleidt said she remembers the first meeting residents had with county officials in November. "They told us about the beautiful park we would have. They showed us a movie of the park in Dupage County and they told us about the Alpine ski slope, the toboggan slide we would get."
Gerald Muller, owner of a 100-year-old brown Victorian home that sits on a hill 200 feet from the proposed landfill site, thought their area was chosen "because it was in a location rural enough, with a large black population, a poor population and with limited educational background to make organization of opposition unlikely."
Muller, who is chairman of the music department at Montgomery Colege, said, "We are concerned about what the dump will do to our water supply, to our traffic problems, to the quality of air and the effect on the wildlife at the Patuxent Wildlife Regue just north of here. What about stinking empty garbage trucks leaving the dump and getting into the racetrack traffic on a hot, sultry, summer day."
The little town of Old Bowie - not to be confused with the Levitt-developed Bowie Newt Town 12 miles down Rte. 197 - is a rural pocket in the midst of suburbia. Small one- and two-story houses with chicken coops out back mix with the newly restored antique shops, shops that have revitalized the run-down atmosphere of the center of town. CAN members say the landfill will have a bad psychological effect on the town's progress.
"Now we have an antique business that . . . brings in some traffic. This town could be able to support a craft industry (which would) revitalize the area and create jobs," said Wolfgang Schleidt, a zoology professor at the University of Maryland.
"If the landfill is approved," Schleidt said, "I could see it now. After a wind, there would be paper and plastic bags from every tree. If the trash catches fire, the smoke would roll right down here."
A county source close to the waste management project said the Park and Planning Commission "didn't anticipate such an uproar" over the Brevard site. "This is a bradn-new concept in this area and I guess we didn't know exactly how to sell it. We had two alternatives, this one and one in the southern area, but for cost effectiveness, and as a park facility, we chose the northern site."
According to the source, the "creative disposal project" would take 15 to 20 years, with ballfields and other small recreational areas developed within five years. "Our concerns for chosing the site were primarily environmental ones. We know this could pose a tremendous health problem, but we will to everything we can to protect them."
Charlie Cox, manager of the project for Waste Management, praised the "fantastic design" of the new landfill. "There are eight ways from Sunday we can control any problem here." But when asked about potential wind damage from the landfill and that added truck traffic on their roads will pose a safety problem for themselves and their children.
County officials were apprehensive about a negative decision. "If the permit is denied, it could result in a dramatic increase in charges for solid waste," said Duncan. "This presents huge problems and has a dramatic effect on our current dumping operations. And there's a negative outlook about finding a facility to take its place."
Until the decision is made. Waste Management is busy with earthmovers and bulldozers digging a ditch around the landfill area. "We are now trying to get ahead of the game," said Cox.
Residents say they will seek an injunction to prevent any dumping if the permit is approved. And the whole problem, according to a county source, has been difficult for the commission.
"The park and planning commission goes out of its way to defend its citizens," he said. "It's getting a black eye through this.
"We are buying windscreens, we are limiting the work face (area). I'd be remiss if I didn't admit there won't be some problems. But we do want to cut them to a minimum. A landfill is a landfill." CAPTION:
Picture, Workmen have begun grading a 218-acre tract in Old Bowie for a proposed landfill. By Linda Wheeler - The Washington Post; Map, no caption, by Dave Cook - The Washington Post