Landfill expansion left in limbo by Cox

Friday, April 20, 2007

Uncertainty continued Monday on whether Cedar Ridge Landfill may be able to deposit solid waste on 11-acres of unused landfill property west of Lewisburg where residents complain of foul odors and fear water pollution while industrialists see it as a needed facility.

Waste Management and Cedar Ridge Landfill last month asked the county for permission to expand their use of the property. Marshall County officials then asked Chancellor J.B. Cox to void part of their solid waste contract so it's clear to county commissioners that they don't have to automatically approve landfill expansion requests as implied by the contract.

Commissioners are set to vote Monday during a 6 p.m. meeting in the Courthouse Annex on the Lewisburg public square.

The landfill and waste management asked Cox to dismiss the case, saying the contract doesn't require commissioners to "rubber stamp" expansion requests, so there's no conflict between the contract and a state law. The law says counties should consider factors such as odor, traffic and other factors such as public welfare when deliberating expansion requests.

Cox didn't dismiss the case, but he didn't alter the contract either, agreeing with landfill officials that it's premature to weigh in on the alleged conflict in the contract until commissioners deny the expansion request and an appeal is filed.

If the expansion is denied, some county leaders say it would void the contract, ending Waste Management's operation of convenience centers for household trash from county residents. If true, the county would have to run the centers. That would increase county costs. It might also change costs for users of the landfill because if the county isn't paid a host fee under the contract, a surcharge could be imposed.

A larger issue looms. If Cedar Ridge can't expand, it may have to stop accepting deposits in about 2-1/2 years, a company official said. The requested expansion would allow operations to continue at the same rate for eight years. Denial of the expansion request could prompt Waste Management to consider using the old Quail Hollow Landfill in Bedford County. It was shuttered years ago after that county's commission imposed a surcharge that priced its operation above the market.