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As Long as We Remember...

February 12, 2009

Get to Work? Donít Talk It to Death!

John W. Ashbury

For nearly a month I fielded questions from the public on all sorts of Waste-to-Energy (WTE) issues and solid waste in general and found answers for them. Equal cooperation is not forthcoming from the other side of this issue.


Even those who aren't against Waste-to-Energy still have questions and are still willing to consider ideas not yet presented. It's a wee bit difficult to understand or embrace a “what-if” possibility.


I get it. A vocal few think Waste-to-Energy is wrong. Okay, so the alternative, the one where you solve the waste problem, would be?


Is there a recycling fairy descending from the heavens waving a magic recycling wand and – poof – it will disappear? I’m thinking that’s not going to happen. Nor will that wand make everyone recycle, compost, nor will it make manufacturers use less packaging. I gave up believing in fairy tales about the time I became an adult and responsible for my own actions. If you don't like what is happening, get your green butts out there and do something about it.


Commissioner David Gray brought up a very serious problem with landfills. He said that should a landfill develop a leak, there is no way to fix it. A landfill leak is a leak into perpetuity. It will leach into the soil, air, water ways, and wells forever.


Armed with that knowledge, do you want another landfill? It is the scariest of all options and should only be used as a last resort.


Commissioner Kai Hagen is calling for exactly that, another landfill. He is willing to risk our health and safety for generations to come because he doesn't want a Waste-To-Energy plant. Please keep in mind that you don’t just plop down a landfill, especially one the size needed if we don’t have a WTE plant.


I'm not even sure there is a suitable site considering the criteria that must be met. Do you want a 800 to 1200-acre landfill (approximately the size of the Urbana PUD) in your back or front yard? I'll go for the WTE with a small foot print (under 10 acres - less than an elementary school site) and buffering with a water vapor, 300' narrow stack over a mega-landfill any day. Think about the Water Towers already here. We could paint it green – with leaves.


Recycling for the sake of recycling is a drain on the environment as well as the economy. Not enough time for that debate right now. I can respect the belief that some have that there must be a better way than building a multi-million dollar WTE plant. What I don't respect is the holier-than-thou attitude with no back up facts. On a local Internet forum, this website, its contributors and editor have been called just shy of the actual word, liars. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. Feel perfectly free to try and prove otherwise.


Commissioner Jan Gardner has posed some very valid questions to Commissioner Hagen and to date he has refused to answer them. Most people live lives of value by actions and deeds performed, not words and who you met for coffee. If he ignores his own colleagues, what can we expect?


If I see a problem I feel needs to be fixed, I fix it. I don't expect others to do my bidding. Baby steps can put anything in motion. Go to an event with a recycling can, start small, offer to help an elderly person do their trash. Dress up as a box of cereal to collect food for the hungry, jumping into the freezing cold water in January for charity, as a couple of dear friends of mine have done. They are taking action and doing something. Walking along our roads and picking up liter, my cereal box friend does that too. She doesn't whine, she takes action, not waiting for others to do it. Complaining with no action accomplishes exactly what?


A 2009 activist appears to be someone who talks. They don't seem very active other than their lips move a lot. I thought that activists saw a need, and then took steps to fix it. I saw them much like the commercial with the Indian Chief standing on the shore, a tear rolling down his cheek as he watched litter floating by. That one commercial made an imprint that will never be lost and it moved people to action.


Commissioner Hagen, you voted for the county partnership with the "Keep America Beautiful" group. Seeing as the Anti-WTE group is denouncing Keep America Beautiful, will you participate? Will you be picking up liter and recycling, or will you just talk about it while others work? The anti-WTE group claims they won’t participate because Keep America Beautiful endorses Waste-to-Energy.


This activist has elevated himself to the office of county commissioner. Bravo, well done, I respect that accomplishment. But as a taxpayer in this county, I'm tired of giving you $45,000 a year, perks, benefits, a new laptop, a stage and whatever else you get to continue nothing more than your activist role.


You are one of five county commissioners and you aren't doing your job. Fight WTE! That is fine by me. I don't want all five commissioners in lock step with each other. Doing it to the exclusion of all other county business is worrisome to say the least and should be to all taxpaying residents.


In watching his public calendar, I'm seeing many times Mr. Hagen is a no show at functions. His own attendance at the twice weekly commissioners’ meetings is less than stellar as with his attendance at boards and commissions he assigned himself to at the beginning of his term.


He seems to be unprepared frequently, but that is strictly my opinion from my observations. Several of the commissioners spend many hours on the road fighting for the needs of Frederick County residents in either Annapolis or the Metro areas. I can't fault them with doing too much, but it does seem to emphasize the lack of work ethics in others.


Agreeing with me or others is neither important nor wanted, but work ethics and being an ethical and responsible elected official is important as it should be to all taxpaying and voting residents in this county.


Fight WTE with every last breath in your body, but do it in a way that offers us viable alternatives. Give us something to work with. At this point Commissioner Hagen appears to be the biggest roadblock for the anti-WTE group. The more he talks the more others see the benefits of WTE.


Commissioners, please made a decision; and, yes, I do appreciate how tough it's going to be.


Here are some links to a few articles written by Farrell Keough, Norman Covert and myself tackling various aspects of solid waste:'07


Woodsboro - Walkersville Times
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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