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Waste center causes a stinky and potentially dangerous problem for Baltimore Co. residents

Posted: 3:57 PM, Sep 17, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-18 14:27:43Z

A 'rotten egg' or 'sewage' type smell is taking over some streets in White Marsh, Middle River, Nottingham and Perry Hall, causing residents to complain. 

The smell allegedly started back in mid-August and it could be linked to hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a dangerous gas that can cause shock, convulsions, coma, and even death if consumed in high concentrations. 

The smell is being traced back to the Honeygo Run Reclamation Center, a waste collection, transfer, disposal, recycling, and energy service owned by Republic Services . After reports of H2S exposure symptoms and the consistent stinky smell, community members complained, prompting an investigation by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). 

On September 7, the MDE went to Honeygo Run Reclamation Center to check it out for themselves. Honeygo Run was cited that day for failing to control and prevent off-site odors, violating multiple restrictions put in place. 

In the report, it says the odor stems from hydrogen sulfide. David Smith, the Environmental Manager at Honeygo Run, was notified of the odor survey findings and told the MDE it's coming from outside of the facility when leachate is pumped into the sanitary sewer line.

Leachate is the liquid that drains from the landfill. It's then pumped into the Baltimore County sewer system and then transported to a pumping station near Pulaski Highway and Ebenezer Road.  

Honeygo Run's problem is its new leachate. It stated in the MDE report it is working on using a chemical that would remove the H2S odor, but as of September 7, it was still waiting on lab results telling it how much of the chemical it needed. 

The MDE advised Honeygo Run it must take necessary steps to control and prevent the odor. 

But after the report, residents say the smell still lingered in the air. That's when Senator J.B Jennings stepped in to help. Jennings sent a letter Secretary Ben H. Grumbles of the Department of the Environment on September 12, demanding results. 

Jennings said he had been to the places plagued with this smell and had experienced it himself. He continued to say residents from Silver Spring Road at Honeygo Boulevard, to Bird River Grove Road at the Bird River, to the Big Gunpowder Falls at Philadelphia Road, and all the way down Philadelphia Road to Route 43 have been complaining about the rotten egg smell for three weeks. In addition to the smell, residents were also complaining about eye/ear/nose and throat irritation, more frequent asthma exacerbations, headaches, dizziness, coughing, nausea, and vomiting - all symptoms of hydrogen sulfide exposure. 

Jennings then demanded a detailed report of the manhole test locations and results, a community forum to update residents as to what is going on and what the risks are, and consideration of shutting down the Honeygo Run Reclamation Center until the matter is resolved. 

WMAR-2 News spoke with an official at the Maryland Department of the Environment who said the Honeygo Run Reclamation Center had stopped pumping the leachate, but they do not know the specific day it stopped.

We also spoke with a Baltimore County spokesperson who sent us the following statement,

"The public works bureau of utilities has been working closely with Honeygo Run Reclamation Center staff and they have ceased releasing the leachate into the county sewer system until they can fix some of their pumping operations. So the county is continuing to work with them to monitor it. We have worked with the source of the problem and believe the problem to be solved."

We have put calls in with Honeygo Run Reclamation Center to see when the pumping stopped and what the next steps are.