A joint effort by the chief executives of Prince George's and Montgomery counties to resolve neighborhood complaints about odors emanating from a sewage sludge disposal plant near Calverton has run into opposition from the Prince George's County Council.
"It's an irresponsible way of doing business," Councilman Frank Casula declared during a council meeting yesterday. The council voted 6 to 0 to send a letter criticzing the county executives' move to Prince George's members of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, which runs the plant.
The latest controversy concerning the sludge facility near the Montgomery-Prince George's border is another development in what has become an ongoing community effort to close the plant.
On June 12 and 13, Montgomery County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist and Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening sent letters to WSSC General Manager John Brusnighan requesting that the amount of sludge taken to the plant be limited to 175 tons a day; 400 tons a day are allowed now.
In his letter, Gilchrist suggested the reduced tonnage as a stopgap measure to reduce odor problems that area residents have complained about until odor control studies now under way are completed.
"While we continue to believe that the site can be operated with little or no community impact, we and the community are becoming increasingly frustrated by the apparent inability to decrease the odor incidents," Gilchrist wrote.
Glendening followed the next day with a letter that endorsed Gilchrist's suggestions, calling them "a prudent course of action."
But the agreement of the executives has not stilled community protest. Instead, it has angered council members such as Casula, who complain that the Glendening-Gilchrist deal was completed over their heads and without soliciting the input of an advisory group formed to study the problem.
"Regardless of how much tonnage they reduce, they're not going to eliminate the odor," Casula said.
Wilfred Sykora, president of the Calverton Citizens' Association, agreed and asserted that the proposal would only be a "phantom reduction," because the plant never reached the 400-ton capacity.
"They do not know the answer," he said. "Until the WSSC proves otherwise, the only way" to solve the problem is to close the plant.
In other action, the council voted to increase the fee for emergency telephone service for county residents from 15 cents a month to 20 cents. Officials said this will pay for improving the 911 network so police can identify immediately the telephone number and address of anyone dialing for assistance.