- The Washington Times - Monday, April 13, 2009

BEALLSVILLE (AP) | The presence of the Montgomery County incinerator never escapes Jane Hunter's notice.

In her yard, she smells something like burning plastic. In November, the smell of burning paint turned out to be a leaking evaporator tube.

From the driveway of the home she's owned since 1966, she sees the 275-foot-tall smokestack. When something's not working right, she sees the black smoke, a telltale sign. Fine ash thinly veils her windows. “It's entirely different than road dirt,” she said.

When her tax bill arrives, she helps pay for the incinerator. Last year, the tax totaled $202, about $170 more than when the facility opened in 1996.

At her house, she hears workers doing routine breakdowns one weekend a month.

“This you can see, hear, smell,” she said. “You always know it's there.”

When workers leave the garbage pit doors open, the wind carries the smell of garbage over the farm fields between her home and the Resource Recovery Facility, which converts garbage into electricity.

She frequently hears the warning - beep, beep, beep - of trucks backing into dumping pits at the incinerator. Whistles frequently go off as steam rises from the smokestacks.

And after nearly every problem, she calls Covanta Montgomery Inc. plant Manager Mark Freedman.

“I expect Montgomery County and Covanta to keep that machine working well,” she said. “I expect to have my issues addressed. I have to live with it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”

The treasurer of the Sugarloaf Citizens Association opposed the facility with a 1994 lawsuit against the county. But the county won the lawsuit, and Covanta Montgomery Inc. built the facility.

Ms. Hunter and the organization managed to stop an expansion of the Mirant Power Plant next to the incinerator.

Much like Ms. Hunter and the Sugarloaf citizens, Frederick County residents are mobilizing to oppose construction of the nation's first incinerator in 10 years. Frederick County leaders are considering construction of a facility to burn trash and produce electricity rather than transporting it to a landfill in another state.

Despite being an outspoken neighbor who has opposed the projects for years, she's not acting with a vengeance against Mr. Freedman or Covanta.

“They try to run a good facility,” she said. “But you're dealing with a machine, and you're interested in a profit. Mark calls me when they take down a boiler, and I appreciate that.”

Likewise, Mr. Freedman sees Ms. Hunter in a good light and has nothing bad to say about her.

“She's well-connected in the community,” he said. “If something's going on, she will get the word out. People have a tendency to contact Jane. I'd like to think we're good neighbors.”

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