Landfill expansion discussed, odor remedy has temporary smell

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Waste Management Inc., the corporation that owns and operates Cedar Ridge Landfill on the west side of Lewisburg, has opened discussions with the state about expanding the landfill, according to Congressman Bart Gordon's office.

"It's my understanding that Waste Management has spoken with the Tennessee Department of Conservation about potential expansion," said Jim Stubblefield, field representative for the 6th District congressman who has offices in Murfreesboro.

Stubblefield's statement came Wednesday afternoon, a few hours before Waste Management announced that it had mailed letters this week to residents near the landfill to discuss odor issues including one of the steps being taken to deal with odor.

"You may notice a temporary increase in odors during this construction activity," said Terri Douglas, spokeswoman for Cedar Ridge Landfill. "This is unavoidable..."

The work should be completed in about two weeks, depending on weather, she said.

Expansion discussions could not be confirmed by TDEC's spokeswoman, Dana Coleman, who said "The department had not received anything other than the application for a permit modification for additional groundwater monitoring."

However, unofficial contact by businesses with regulatory agencies is not unusual as experienced corporate leaders approach complicated regulations with caution.

If Cedar Ridge Landfill isn't expanded, then its continued use leads it toward closure because of the nature of landfill designs. Their territory is filled and when they're opened, the amount of space is known and the landfill's lifespan can be calculated based on the amount of rubbish accepted during set periods of time.

During a recent visit to the landfill, it was explained that some kinds of waste are no longer being accepted. That would reduce the rate at which the landfill approaches closure.

In Marshall County, Waste Management's "current permitted site is anticipated at three years, depending upon volumes," said Terri Douglas, spokeswoman for the landfill. "Waste Management has an approved closure/post closure plan in place in accordance with state regulations and posted with financial assurances."

Stubblefield said, "We contacted TDEC because of the concerns of Marshall County residents who wanted to know more about the situation and be kept aware of any new developments."

Gordon's field representative was specific that regulation of landfills is a state matter.

Gordon, however, is known to have an interest in the environment, having personally inspected a federal SuperFund site at College Grove in recent years.

"Because there is no federal regulation of local landfills, the landfill's expansion or closure will ultimately be decided by Waste Management and TDEC," Stubblefield said. "I hope the state will keep residents' concerns in mind as they consider this issue."

Waste Management also operates a landfill in Nashville and it has recently faced regulatory issues and public concerns.

Information received by the Marshall County Tribune indicated that the landfill might have enough room for operations to continue for some 18 months. That, however, has clearly been disputed by Douglas who's also said that comment about expansion, and responses to questions about land purchases for adequate cover of daily disposal should come from corporate leaders.

The letter mailed Tuesday to Marshall County residents near the landfill explains that 14 more wells are to be installed to collect gases created from the decomposition of garbage. Methane rising through the landfill seeps into the wells and through rocks in a casing. The rocks surround a pipe with holes to accept the gas. The gas is then piped to a methane burner for disposal.

Beyond disposing of the flammable gas, the system relieves pressures underground which might disrupt the layers of garbage and daily cover of dirt.

Waste Management's addition of 14 wells will increase their number to 63, Douglas' letter states.

Construction of the wells is scheduled to start on Monday, Oct. 9, she said.

"Waste Management has a deep commitment to environmental responsibility, and recognizes its responsibility to be a good neighbor to the residents who live near our facilities," Douglas said. "We are proceeding with these efforts as quickly as possible and are confident that they will be successful in reducing odors from the landfill.

"We're grateful for your patience as we complete the necessary maintenance and well installation activities," she said.

Douglas invited comments from the public to her telephone; number (931) 993-7642.

Meanwhile, TDEC has not announced whether it has issued a new permit for the landfill. Waste Management asked for permission to monitor groundwater in an area surrounding the current boundary of the landfill. The state indicated that the application was properly prepared and, based on an initial review, appeared to meet requirements, so an early indication was issued, meaning that the permit has a good chance of being issued.

Waste Management issued a statement about the ground water monitoring wells it has proposed.

Five on-site surface water locations are monitored, as well as one on-site groundwater monitoring well.

"We have detected some naturally occurring compounds such as chloride, calcium, magnesium, etc.," the company said.

Those results were not the motivating factor for the request to monitor ground water beyond the landfill's boundary, the company said.

"The off-site location was based on a (dye trace) study by our consultants and was identified as an ideal location to add to the groundwater monitoring program," the company said.

Ground water monitoring would continue after the landfill is closed, if that's the course the company must take.