Quail Hollow Landfill seen as alternative

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The shuttered, but not forgotten Quail Hollow Landfill in Bedford County might be used again by Waste Management Inc. if Marshall County commissioners vote on Monday to deny the company's request to expand use of Cedar Ridge Landfill.

That's according to Robert Cheney, business development manager for Waste Management. He spoke of options on where household trash could go during a recess in Marshall County Chancery Court last week. Chancellor J.B. Cox had been asked to make a decision regarding Marshall County's contract on the landfill just west of Lewisburg.

Legal issues aside, Cheney said trash collected at Bedford County Convenience Centers is hauled by county trucks to Cedar Ridge where, given current usage rates, the landfill has enough room to continue operations for about 2-1/2 years. If Marshall County commissioners approve the expansion request, Cedar Ridge could accept solid waste for eight years. Both time estimates start now. Landfill lifespans depend on usage.

Bedford County has a contract with Waste Management to provide a final destination for proper disposal of solid waste, Cheney said. The company will meet its obligations and has options if Cedar Ridge can't be expanded, he said.

Solid waste transfer stations in Nashville are among the options on where trash from Bedford County convenience centers might be sent, Cheney said.

"And then there's Quail Hollow," the Waste Management business development manager said of a landfill in Bedford County.

While that landfill has not been used by Waste Management for years, it is still a permitted landfill that can be reopened if market conditions are right, Cheney said.

Years ago, Bedford County commissioners imposed a surcharge on the deposits of solid waste at Quail Hollow, he said. The dollar amount of the charge was seen by Waste Management as greater than what the market would bear, thereby making the continued operation of that landfill unprofitable.

However, as times change and the price of fuel used to haul waste from convenience centers to landfills continues to increase, Cheney said, "It would definitely be worth having a conversation over that" idea of reopening Cedar Ridge Landfill.

While it's all admittedly speculative, the reason the land fill at Quail Hollow isn't used now is at the crux of a decision to be made Monday when the Marshall County commissioners meet at 6 p.m. in Lewisburg. The amount Marshall County charges Waste Management to conduct business there could change. How much hasn't been decided.

Last month, Waste Management asked for permission to start depositing wastes on 11 acres of its large landfill. Counties must authorize landfills before the state will issue a permit.

Residents near Cedar Ridge have complained about the odor of rotting garbage last fall when heavy rain eroded cover dirt and conditions were unsafe for bulldozer operations until the rain stopped.

Even earlier last year, metal shavings from an industry's refuse caught fire and smoke filled some hollows like low fog and irritated residents, according to Marshall County's Emergency Management Agency director Bob Hopkins. He said the smoke cleared before state environmentalists could come and document the situation.

Two months ago, Marshall County commissioners ordered ground water testing because residents near the landfill are worried their wells, springs and streams are polluted by leachate. Leachate is storm water which has seeped through garbage in a landfill and collected contaminants.

Globe Creek near Cedar Ridge is listed by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation as impacted by pollution. Waste Management leaders say that probably happened before they bought the landfill and they're committed to doing what they can to get the creek off the state's list. Landfill management has changed over the years to now require liners under garbage so leachate can be collected. Waste Management hauls it off in tank trucks. At Walter Hill east of Murfreesboro, leachate is treated and then flushed to a sewer leading to Murfreesboro's wastewater treatment plant. Some of the Waste Management leaders over Cedar Ridge were BFI employees in the 1990s when they negotiated the sewer deal with Murfreesboro for leachate from the Middle Point Landfill in Rutherford County. A sewer for Cedar Ridge has been discussed.

Here in Bedford County, Quail Hollow remains a state-permitted landfill, Cheney said. It's just not being used. It could be reopened if market conditions allow that.

One legal question before Chancellor Cox was whether he would interpret Waste Management's contract with Marshall County. The county attorney asked Cox to say the contract is in conflict with state law because it allegedly requires the county to approve any expansion request. That's in conflict with a state law requiring commissioners to decide whether to permit new landfill operations based on eight criteria. Health, safety, welfare, traffic, odor, economic and other issues are to be considered.

Waste Management's attorney said there's no conflict in the contract and the petition for a chancellor's interpretation should be dismissed. The contract includes the state requirements, but the county requested removal of the section of the contract that says the county is obliged to grant expansion requests. Under the contract,Waste Management runs Marshall County's convenience centers.

Cox did not dismiss the case, nor did he alter the contract. His reluctance to dismiss the case gave Marshall County Attorney Lee Bowles some hope the county might prevail if there's a trial on the contract. The landfill's lawyer said the chancellor's refusal to sever part of the contract was appropriate.

Without a ruling, Marshall County commissioners have three resolutions to consider Monday night.

The resolutions were forwarded from the county's solid waste committee to the commission for its consideration on whether to grant the expansion. Committee Chairman LavoyLedford explained them as follows.

One is to have the commission determine whether the contract is valid. If it's seen as valid, then commissioners would examine state law to see if expansion should be allowed, given the criteria. If commissioners see the contract as invalid, then they may feel free to deny the expansion request.

Another resolution would simply be approval of the expansion request.

The third resolution would deny the expansion request based on the criteria in state law.

If the expansion is denied and the contract is seen as invalid, then the host fee paid by Waste Management to the county would be stopped, Ledford said. If that happened, the county could impose a surcharge.

Williams disagrees with the conclusion that denying the expansion voids the contract. That happens only if one or both parties decides to do something about a conflict, he said.

Even if the county approves the expansion, Cedar Ridge won't automatically be able to use the 11 acres within its current compound because there's a year-long state approval process yet to be completed, Cheney said.

Waste Management must "demonstrate to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Solid Waste Division that the permit should be granted," Cheney said.

Work to start that process approval process has begun.

Waste Management and Marshall County leaders were focused on legal issues last week and there was little, if any, discussion at the courthouse about this weekend including the anniversary of Earth Day.