By andrei Blakely
ANNAPOLIS – There are no alternative locations for a controversial waste transfer station planned near Bowie State University, county officials told lawmakers Tuesday, and difficulties with that site they’re sure will be fixed during development.
The county has carefully chosen the location for the waste transfer station, said Samuel Wynkoop, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources, at a public hearing held by the Prince George’s County General Assembly Delegation’s County Affairs Committee.
Wynkoop was testifying in objection to a new bill designed specifically to limit the building of waste transfer stations within three miles of higher education institutions.
“Any time the government locates a facility, whether it be an office, jail or compost, you can be sure there will be opposition,” said Wynkoop.
The bill is sponsored by Sens. Leo E. Green, Ulysses Currie, and Gloria Lawlah, and by Delegates Mary Conroy, James Hubbard and Joan Pitkin. The legislators all are Democrats from Prince George’s County, who hope to build support for the bill in the upcoming legislative session.
Proponents of the bill said too many transfer stations are built near minority communities and present health risks that violate community members’ civil rights.
“(The transfer station) will be an environmental disaster to the Bowie State University community, our local national treasure, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center and the residents near the proposed site,” said Green.
The transfer station should be built near an industrial railroad that has a side track connecting to the mainline to accommodate transportation concerns, he said.
The Bowie location at Lemons Bridge Road is near railroad tracks, but connecting track would have to be built.
At the hearing, a group from the county including Wynkoop testified the county is required by state law to provide sufficient waste disposal.
Waste is transferred to the Brown Station landfill in Upper Marlboro. The Sandy Hill landfill in Bowie has reached capacity.
The need for the transfer station outweighs objections from the community, because without a facility the waste would have to be expensively hauled to other locations, said Wynkoop.
“I think that the county has an obligation to have a plan in place and it does not appear they have any alternatives,” said Melony G. Griffith, D-Prince George’s, a member of the committee.
The transfer station is safe and better for air quality because it is a closed building, while a landfill is an open space, officials said.
Part of the controversy over the transfer station stems from the way the property was acquired, Green said.
The state bid on the portion of the land sold by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and planned to use it for university recreational space, said Mike Morrill, Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s communications director.
But, the county’s $500,000 proposal for the entire property was accepted instead.
During the testimony, community members objected to the possible smell and appearance of a facility.
“It is our belief that the trash transfer station conjures negative perceptions of our university,” said Arthur Brooks, vice-president of institution advancement at Bowie State University. “The students are not in support.”