More than half a billion dollars lies buried beneath tons of trash and orange dirt at a huge landfill in this small backwoods area outside Baltimore.

Sorted and discarded by machines at the Federal Reserve Bank in Baltimore as too worn for use, the currency is shredded and brought to the swamp-surrounded landfill to be buried alongside bald tires, old furniture and dead fish.

Trucker Vince Armstrong hauled another 1 1/2 tons of the shredded cash - more than $17 million - to meet its maker today.

"Mind boggling, isn't it?" Armstrong said as he admired the truckload of 69 cash-stuffed, clear plastic bags. Each sack holds $250,000 of the shredded paper money, and each bill is cut horizontally into 40 thin strips. "it's a damn shame you can't glue it back together, ain't it?" Armstrong said.

Other haulers using the landfill today thought so, too. As Armstrong removed the padlock and raised the sliding door of his dusty, red truck to begin unloading his booty, a small crowd gathered. Workers ignored their own loads of stones, wood scraps and household garbage for a moment and gathered to covet the cash.

"Wowee! Money! Golly - I knew there was something funny about it," bellowed a delighted Willie Nebille Jr. as he thrust his hand deep into a pile of the green paper and triumphantly raised a fistful to his face. "Smells like money, too," Nebille said.

"Damn shame, let me tell you," his father, Willie Sr., said after he grabbed a bunch. "I'm working out here to make it, and they're out here throwing it away... Tell 'em when they throw away some real whole pieces, let me know. I'll be glad to haul it for them."

The money comes from banks throughout the Baltimore-Washington area to the Federal Reserve Bank on Baltimore's courthouse square. Because American paper currency has a circulation life of only 18 months, a 3,000-pound load of discarded currency accumulates at the Baltimore vault each week.

Officials previously had burned the shredded cash until complaints arose last year because of the foul-smelling smoke from currency ink. Armstrong took over the weekly hauling job in January.

"It was sickening [at first]," Armstrong said, because of the abundance of cash and the hopelessness of ever getting all the strips of bills back together again. "Just to think that you're carrying more money in that one bag than you'll earn the rest of your life."

All that failed to bother equipment operator Jack Evans today, though. Evans mounted a Caterpillar bulldozer, ground the gears and pushed a pile of dirt over the bags of shredded cash. Sealed bags popped as they burst beneath the weight of the machine and disappeared under layer after layer of fresh soil.

"At first, it was a novelty," Evans said of the load of cash he had just put six feet under. [Now] it's just like anything all ends up in the same place anyway." CAPTION: Picture, Vince Armstrong, rear, and his helpers relax on 17 million shredded dollars at Glen Burnie landfill. By Gerald Martineau - The Washington Post