Cumberland Times-News

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November 21, 2012

Garrett wants Md. to alter law on abrasive stockpiling

OAKLAND — Garrett County commissioners have requested legislation that would amend the state code to allow the roads department to continue to stockpile coal combustion byproducts, known as bottom ash, which is used as winter abrasive on roads.

The roads department received a violation from the Maryland Department of the Environment stating that the department is required by a certain section of state code to cover or store the bottom ash, according to County Administrator Monty Pagenhardt.

“We used this particular type of abrasive for years and years and it wasn’t any problem” said Pagenhardt during the commission meeting Tuesday.

In March, Mitchell Welsh of the Compliance Division of MDE, who specializes in the Solid Waste Program, observed the violation in the way the bottom ash was stored at the four garages.

The county doesn’t have the funds to construct a building to cover the stockpiles and it would be a safety hazard for the employees to place a one-acre tarp on the stockpiles, said Pagenhardt.

“It creates quite a financial difficulty for us to store or cover those materials,” said Pagenhardt. “Not using that material is going to cause a safety problem on the road because it does provide a great abrasive.”

Each stockpile is covered by an insurant to protect the county for any type of runoff or environmental hazard liability issues, according to Pagenhardt.

The anti-skid has been stored at each of the garage sites for many years with little or no environmental impact on the surrounding areas, Jay Moyer, general roads superintendent, said at a public meeting in October. The bottom ash is currently covered with other materials so that the dust isn’t blowing around, said commission chairman Jim Raley.

“I find it kind of amazing that you have to take these kind of procedures for a stockpile,” said Delegate Wendell Beitzel at Tuesday’s meeting. “The greatest danger is using it on the roads and they (MDE) are just concerned about the stockpile.”  

Beitzel said he has an issue with the fact that coal, which is stockpiled and transported all over the country, isn’t considered a hazardous material, but that the coal combustion byproduct is.   

In other legislative news, Raley said he hopes that Sen. George Edwards and Beitzel refine the Marcellus Shale issues this year.

“You can bet your boots that there will be setbacks and those kinds of things established in any of those pieces of legislation,” said Raley. “I can assure you there will be pieces of legislation coming forth that are going to deal with shale gas drilling this year.”

The legislation that is being introduced will put a moratorium on Marcellus Shale drilling in Maryland, according to Beitzel.

“Obviously, there is drilling occurring on both sides of us in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. That is a big issue for us here in Western Maryland,” said Beitzel. “There are those that oppose it and there are those that are for it. Senator Edwards and I want to make sure it’s done properly and safely with best practices. All the land owners that have the shale on their property at this point are being deprived of the opportunity for some economic gain.”  

The Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission will meet Nov. 30 at 10 a.m. at the Eastern Garrett Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department on Finzel Road.

Also during Tuesday’s meeting, the commission voted to table the approval of a Deep Creek Lake Shoreline Projects Stabilization Incentive Program policy so that more information could be gathered.

The policy was in the works before John Griffin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, came up last week to address the state of the lake, according to Raley.

“It’s a proposal to look at protections for basically the watershed around Deep Creek Lake,” said Raley. “... You have to pay a fee for a permit just to go in and protect the shoreline you don’t even own because it’s on the buffer strip. We know that shoreline protection is a good thing; it obviously is going to help in some ways with sedimentation.”

The policy would provide some type of county funds for projects that protect the watershed, according to Raley.

Griffin is working with Bob Summers, secretary of MDE, to form a blanket permit process that would help the county out, said Commissioner Robert Gatto.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.

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