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'Ash with a visa' looks a lot like black soil or fertilizer

June 28, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

UPTON, Pa. - What does 20 tons of municipal waster incinerator ash look like?

On Thursday, it was black, and it could have passed for soil or fertilizer.

After it rushed from the tilted bed of a dump truck, it sat in a pile about 5 feet high at its peak and about 12 feet wide. Shredded pieces of plastic liner were mixed in.

The most interesting thing about the ash was how far it traveled the last 16 years, said Dennis Buterbaugh, a press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

"It's the ash with a visa," he said.

About 20 news reporters and photographers scampered to the entrance of the Mountain View Reclamation Landfill when a truck carrying a load of the long-awaited ash arrived.

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Then, the media crowded into two vehicles for a bumpy ride up the hill on the heels of the truck.

At the top, about 80 feet above street level, everyone watched as one end of the truck bed slowly rose. A clear liquid poured out - Florida rainwater. A few thick dark drops dripped out, too.

It took the ash a few seconds to gush out and pound onto the ground. Cameras clicked and reporters from as far away as Baltimore and Philadelphia scribbled.

Judy Archibald, the regional community relations manager for Waste Management, which runs the landfill, smiled and sang to herself, "I feel the earth move under my feet."

Giant machines with studded wheels pushed the ash into the rest of the refuse - about 10 to 15 tons of strewn cracker boxes, laundry detergent containers, soda bottles and more that had tumbled from each of the other dump trucks during the day.

After the trash-moving equipment made one pass, the ash was practically invisible.

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