Four Montgomery County legislators said yesterday the county should take a new look at the idea of shipping the county's waste by rail to West Virginia or Pennsylvania.
Democrats Joel Chasnoff and Jerry Hyatt and Republicans Luiz Simmons and Robin Ficker said yesterday that they will support the work of a bipartisan task force formed by a group of citizens to study rail haul as an alternative to opening the controversial Oaks Landfill in Laytonsville next month.
There is a real health issue involved in Laytonsville," said Chasnoff. "It's still a real problem that I don't think has been adequately addressed. Rail haul seems to be something that could work to eliminate all of this."
Montgomery officials considered shipping the county's waste elsewhere as early as 1969. Sites in West Virginia and Ohio were considered in 1975, but a request for bids from prospective haulers failed in 1976 when none could meet the county's standards, according to John Weber, a spokesman for the county's solid waste department.
Simmons, who is considering running against Democratic County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist this year, lashed out at the handling of the solid waste problem by the current administration.
"I'm not satisfied that the rail-haul method has been looked at as much as it should have been . . . and the handling of the Laytonsville landfill has not inspired much confidence in this administration," said Simmons.
George Siehl, a specialist in natural resources policy for the Congressional Research Service who lives near the proposed landfill, said the circumstances that prevented rail hauling in the past have changed.
The legislators said the Supreme Court has removed interstate commerce barriers to moving solid waste across state lines, and that there is a strip mine site near Mount Storm, W.Va., where the owner would accept Montgomery's trash.
"The first time they tried this they did no advance work to see if people were going to accept it," said Siehl, who will head the citizen's task force. "Now we're looking at a site where people are responsive to the idea."
The legislators have asked the County Council to consider the rail haul proposal at its meeting next Tuesday. That is the day the council will decide whether to grant a $600,000 supplemental appropriation needed if the landfill is to open on schedule June 1.