Plans for a chromium waste treatment facility on Old Gunpowder Road near Laurel have been "reexamined" and withdrawn by the developer, Dsposal Engineering Inc., according to a representative of the company.
Francis A. Porter, a local consultant for the New York-based firm, also said that sand and gravel pits in the Laurel area are still being considered as a possible disposal site for the waste after it has been treated. But he added that the chances the pits will be used have been reduced.
Porter said the change was not related to the vehement protests from Laurel area residents and Prince George's political leaders after plans for the treatment plant and disposal facility were reported by the Maryland Weekly in May.
Democratic Rep. Gladys Noon Spellman, of Prince George's, said, however, that she believes the company "ran into a buzz saw (of opposition) and they've backed off."
Under its original plan, Disposal Engineering would have hauled hazardous hexavalent chormium from an Allied Chemical Corp. plant in Baltimore to the Gunpowder Road site. The new proposal calls for construction of a treatment plant next to Allied Chemical's Fells Point site in Baltimore, where Disposal Engineering would use a new process to treat some 300 tons of chromium ore wastes each week, Porter said.
The process, currently awaiting a patent, could be used to "neutralize" nearly any type of chemical or heavy metal waste that is now considered toxic or hazardous, he said.
Porter said Disposal Engineering president Aaron E. Williams was advised by Porter and other consultants to locate the treatment plant in Baltimore to eliminate dangers associated with transporting the hazardous material.
An Allied Chemical official, Patrick Gilhooley, said the giant chemical and manufacturing firm has entered "no agreements" with Disposal Engineering.
"We don't know what the process can do," Gihooley said. "But, like any process, we'll take a look at it."
Maryland state officials sent a letter to Porter last week indicating that state tests of a sample of chromium waste treated with the process showed that the treated material was not toxic or hazardous. The letter added that if the process can be used on a mass-production scale, the treated waste could be handled as an industrial waste, Porter said. In other words, it could be used as a landfill for sand and gravel pits, park land or road beds.
State oficials refused to discuss the letter and referred all callls to Ron Nelson, of the newly created Maryland Environmental Protection Agency. Nelson and an assistant did not return telephone calls.
Aides to Spellman said they were upset that the state had downgraded the material to an industrial waste without a full review of the process for community residents and leaders. w
The location still under consideration as a disposal site for treated chromium wastes located near the SPOT WHERE van Dusen Road passes over I-95, according to Porter.
Mary Anne Updike, a community leader and a member of the Old Gunpowder Road Civic Association, objected to use of the site, saying: "Someone is always trying to use this basically rural area as a dumping ground for something. If it's not sewage sludge, it's this.