Many Odenton-area residents who have recently driven by the Patuxent Road access point to the proposed Chesapeake Terrace Rubble Landfill site have been alarmed by the construction on each side of the artery.

Some have been under the impression that building the landfill ― which would encompass a 114.4-acre fill area within 480 acres ― was a dead issue. But after decades of controversy concerning the proposed National Waste Managers project, many locals have learned to stay tuned.

The current construction is an Anne Arundel County wetlands mitigation project; there was also a recent concern about the effect the landfill could have on endangered northern long-eared bats being present on the property, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stated is a non-issue.

Recent construction along Patuxent Road in Odenton raised concerns about the Chesapeake Terrace Rubble Landfill coming to pass, but it actually concerned wetland mitigation. (TBM / Mark R. Smith)

So with the bat issue out of its way, NWM, which is part of the Silver Spring-based Halle Companies, is again pushing to build the landfill. There are still concerns among local residents, especially since thousands of homes have risen in the area since NWM made its initial pitch in 1988 and the new Two Rivers Elementary School is set to open nearby this fall.

MDE approval

Among those concerns is stopping the project once and for all while current County Executive Steuart Pittman, a staunch opponent of the project, is still in office; in mid-March, he issued a statement reiterating that “the developer has not yet met the local zoning requirements.”

But some citizens worry that the eventual successor of the term-limited Pittman might be in favor of building the landfill.

Today, the community is awaiting the anticipated approval to build the project from the Maryland Department of the Environment. That would spur the expected continuation of the court battle between NWM and the county.

Another brewing fight concerns truck access to the project, which is currently slated to go off of Conway Road, through the new elementary school campus. (The Patuxent Road access point will soon be permanently closed. That means that NWM would have to find a new access point. Doing so would likely lead to another court battle.

Representatives of NWM did not respond to requests for comment for the article. However, several opponents of the project did, including Marsha Perry, former local delegate and long-time community activist.

Perry said the more recent residents of the area have joined in the protesting with the locals “who have spent decades worrying about [CEO Warren] ‘Cookie’ Halle’s determination to develop this site, thus threatening its adjacent environment, which [connects] to the south and east to the Chesapeake Bay.

“We will continue our fight against dump trucks, asbestos, methane gas fires,” etc., said Perry, “and will do it, side-by-side, with our newer neighbors” to stop the project.

No access
Cathy Fleshman, treasurer of the Forks of the Patuxent Improvement Association, said that Halle needs access to the site and if it doesn’t get it by the elementary school, having that MDE permit “won’t do any good unless he gets authorization from the county for alternate access and Pittman has made the statement many times that the landfill won’t happen under his watch.

“But if Halle can get access somewhere,” said Fleshman, “he will.”
County Councilperson Julie Hummer, however, was more direct in her viewpoint.
“It’s not going to happen,” said Hummer. “The school entrance was the only entrance that was approved when a special exception was granted in 1993. Since, the school has been built on that site and I’m 1,000% certain that the Anne Arundel County Public Schools will not approve it as an entry to a landfill.”

Like Fleshman and Perry, however, she also noted the NWM’s dogged persistence in this matter. “Remember,” said Hummer, “these people have even attempted to sell the land to an Indian tribe to get an exception.”

Staying alert

“It’s still possible” that the landfill could be built, said Ed Riehl, president of the Two Rivers Landfill Opposition Committee. “Assuming the county denies the permit, that decision will ultimately be appealed by NWM and will ultimately be decided in several courts, though that could take a few years.”

So there is some concern that the courts could reinterpret those special exception requirements from 1993, which means the landfill’s opponents need to keep paying attention. It may appear that all the county has to do is enforce the law, because it would be very difficult for NWM to convince the AACPS that building an access road through a school campus is a good idea.

So why does NWM keep trying? “A landfill can generate $1 billion in revenue over the years, so I guess that the company thinks it’s worth the effort to keep fighting for it,” said Hummer. “Still, we don’t know what a future administration would do.
“Therefore,” she said, “we would prefer for the MDE issue the permit while Steuart’s still in office.”

That’s what many of the locals are hoping. “I think we’re getting closer to the end” of the controversy, said Riehl. “I don’t think it will take 30 more years to resolve this issue and I remain optimistic that the landfill will ultimately be stopped.”

Caption: Recent construction along Patuxent Road in Odenton raised concerns about the Chesapeake Terrace Rubble Landfill coming to pass, but it actually concerned wetland mitigation. Photo: Mark R. Smith