nne Arundel County Executive O. James Lighthizer signed a contract with the Baltimore Gas and Electic Co. today to conduct a test burn of sewage sludge from the county's Cox Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Lighthizer called the one-year experiment "the first of its kind anywhere in the United States" in that it provides for the incineration of municipal sludge in a privately owned utility company furnace.

The experiment will cost the county $14,000 a month. An additional $248,400 capital cost will be divided between the county and BG&E but paid back to BG&E should the experiment prove successful.

Lighthizer said he hopes the test burning will dispose of the entire Cox Creek sludge inventory. The sludge backup led last month to a construction moratorium that the county lifted two days ago, announcing that the county would dispose of the Cox Creek sludge through a land application plan.

That land application plan, which would mix the sludge with lime and sell it as fertilizer, will remain in effect as "a backup plan," according to Thomas Neel, director of the county utilities bureau.

Chris H. Poindexter, BG&E's vice president of engineering and construction, said his company will not profit from the experiment, as the sludge burned will be 95 percent solid and will thus require a higher ratio of coal for evaporation.

But he said the company will benefit in the long run from the resolution of the county's sludge problem, which had caused the state health department to impose a capacity limit of 9.6 million gallons a day on the Cox Creek plant, as opposed to the 15 million for which it was designed.

Poindexter also said BG&E is looking into future projects to dry the sludge before burning it, which could make the operation profitable.

In addition to the May 16 construction moratorium, the county imposed a sewer-line moratorium last December that prevented BG&E and other companies from expanding their operations in the northern part of the county.

"As the area grows, so grows our company," Poindexter said.

The incineration, which began Wednesday, takes place at BG&E's Herbert A. Wagner power plant two blocks north of the Cox Creek Plant.

Under the terms of the contract, the county will tranport 200 tons of sludge per day by truck to the BG&E site, where it will be incinerated in a coal-fired generator that operates at a temperature of 3,000 degrees, farenheit.

Poindexter said the high temperature--twice that at which Cox Creek now burns some of its sludge--will prevent environmental hazards often associated with sludge burning.