Adding a multimillion dollar liner under a proposed dump in Laytonsville would be putting a frill on what already is "the Cadillac of landfills," three Montgomery County Council members charged yesterday.
The council is split 3-3-1 on whether to approve $600,000 needed to open the landfill as scheduled on June 1. No resolution was reached during a 2 1/2-hour meeting yesterday, which the council closed to the public saying it was discussing a pending law suit brought by Laytonsville residents. The council agreed only to defer action at least until Friday, when more information from the state health department would be available.
Further adding to the conflict, County Executive Charles Gilchrist said he would veto any appropriation for a liner. Gilchrist said the liner, which would cost $14 million to $19 million, would delay the opening and would not protect the safety of well water of nearby residents.
The county is required by the state health department to close its Gude Road landfill by June 1 and the city of Rockville, where it is located, yesterday threatened to sue the county to force its closure.
To calm neighbors' objections, the council is considering devices such as a clay or plastic liner under the waste, a cap over the waste and extending water lines to the area.
Council President Neal Potter and members David Scull and Ruth Spector called the dump the "Cadillac of landfills." Scull noted, "This is the most expensive landfill in the country." The three say a liner is unnecessary, as the landfill is supposed to use a "natural attenuation" system where soil leaches out impurities from the waste. Instead of a liner, Scull and Spector support extending public water to the 91 homes near the landfill.
Council members Esther Gelman, Michael Gudis and Rose Crenca say a liner is necessary to reassure nearby residents and to insure the safety of their wells.
The key vote is that of councilman Scott Fosler, who wants a liner over part of the landfill and a cap to cover waste on its initial section, a solution he says would allow the landfill to open on time.
The closed door session, which was requested by former Washington Redskin Ray Schoenke, president of Laytonsville's civic association, focused on whether Laytonsville residents would drop their lawsuit if the council would agree to install a liner and a waste water collection system, according to Del. Robin Ficker, who also is a party to the suit. No agreement was reached, Ficker said.
Time has become a problem in the dump debate. In addition to the state health department's order to stop using the Gude landfill by June 1, the county's budget must be adopted by Saturday. If the landfill or liner appropriation is not decided by then, it will take five votes -- the same number that would be required to override Gilchrist's threatened veto -- instead of a simple majority because it then would be an emergency appropriation.
Also, installing a liner over part of the landfill would take between 90 days to eight months, which would mean keeping the Gude landfill open past its deadline. Rockville Mayor John R. Freeland yesterday told the council that the city was prepared to "initiate any and all legal action" to insure that Gude dump is closed by June 1.
Disposing of the county's yearly 511,000 tons of trash has consumed millions of dollars and hundreds of hours by the last two county administrations. The proposed Laytonsville landfill has been the prime subject, generating bookshelves full of environmental and engineering reports.