Hoping to quiet growing complaints over the design of a landfill scheduled to open June 1 near Laytonsville, Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist asked Maryland health officials yesterday to review the project and rule on whether the landfill will pose health and safety hazards.
Gilchrist asked Secretary Charles S. Buck of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to reevaluate the department's earlier finding that the 550-acre landfill "poses no threat to the health of the citizens in the nearby area."
"Some people who live near the site have consistently opposed its operation," wrote Gilchrist, who held a press conference yesterday to discuss his letter to the state. "They brought lawsuits, appealed to your department, appeared weekly before the County Council and initiated a heavily financed political opposition."
But Gilchrist told reporters he believes decisions about the design and operation of the landfill should be based solely on public health considerations, and not on political pressure.
County Councilman Scott Fosler sparked a new round of questions in the controversy Wednesday when he suggested to Gilchrist in a memorandum that a liner be placed on the floor of the landfill and that the first section filled be sealed with a cap to keep rainwater from the trash.
Fosler said the two steps, previously declared not necessary by state health officials, "would provide an added measure of security" for the residents of Laytonsville.
Gilchrist responded yesterday that once the first section, about 100 acres, is filled, he proposes to cover it with an impervious cap, at a cost of $300,000, to block out rainwater and retard the decay of the refuse.
Installing a liner, Gilchrist said, could cost $10 million. In his letter to the state, he said, "The proposal for a liner runs directly counter to the position of your office over many years. A liner should be added only if it would provide a significant improvement in safety. Accordingly, I urge you to reassess the state's position regarding the safety . . . . "
Raymond Schoenke, president of the Greater Laytonsville Civic Association, wants the opening of the landfill delayed until design and safety questions have been resolved to the satisfaction of nearby residents. He said that if it opens as scheduled "we will not accept it . . . . Some of our members don't want the landfill at all, but I believe the majority of the people will accept a landfill with a full liner."
He said the liner, which could be made of sheets of heavy plastic, would prevent leachate, the liquid that exudes from rotting garbage, from seeping into the water table and eventually contaminating the drinking water of some 1,000 families in the area who depend on wells.