About 50 Prince George's County residents were joined by local politicians yesterday in protesting a construction company's plan to apply sewage sludge to land near their homes in Clinton.
Bardon Inc., a British construction company with local offices in Greenbelt, wants to apply sludge to 275 acres of land at Hyde Field, an airfield on Route 223. About 17,000 tons of sludge from the Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant and other facilities would be spread on land around the airfield that the company has been mining for gravel and sand.
A subcontractor for Bardon, Wheelabrator Water Technologies of Baltimore, submitted a permit application to the Maryland Department of the Environment, according to department spokesman Quentin Banks.
Residents complained yesterday that the sludge could produce unpleasant odors and pose health risks for communities nearby. The airfield is within a mile of more than a dozen subdivisions.
"I moved out from the city for the air," said Simca Moton-Kinney, 38. "It's not fair for my son not to be able to breathe."
The owner of Hyde Field, Nabil Asterbadi, of Washington, was unaware of the sludge proposal until this week and does not have the authority to prevent it, but he vigorously opposes it, a spokesman said.
"The property owner is going to fight for you and take your side," Peter Lupo told protesters holding signs and chanting slogans on Steed Road, next to Hyde Field. "If we put enough pressure [on Bardon], we're going to be able to stop it."
Officials at Bardon could not be reached for comment.
County Council Chairman M.H. Jim Estepp and council member Isaac J. Gourdine said they oppose the spreading of sewage sludge on Hyde Field, located in their districts.
"Citizens are concerned that Prince George's County is becoming a dumping ground," said Gourdine (D-Fort Washington). "More often that not, the dumping of sludge is happening in areas that are predominantly minority."
"Applying sludge on rural property is done routinely," Estepp (D-Upper Marlboro) said. "The reason I'm opposed is because there are residences within a few miles."
The Department of the Environment held a public hearing on the permit application July 8, but residents complained they were not given sufficient advance notice.
An announcement ran for one day in a local newspaper, they said.
"They need to notify us better," said resident Josephine Thomas, 55. "A lot of us didn't even know about the hearing until after it happened. If this many of us showed up on a Saturday in this heat, think how many of us would have gone to a meeting in an air-conditioned building."
State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) has asked the Department of the Environment to hold a second hearing before making a decision about the permit application, Estepp said.
Banks, the department spokesman, could not say whether such a hearing would take place or when the department would make a decision on the application.