Environmental exam sought on storm water flowing from landfill

Friday, February 6, 2009

The prospect of requiring an Environmental Impact Statement on storm water flowing from Cedar Ridge Landfill is to be considered by Marshall County commissioners during a non-voting workshop on Monday.

That's among the plans set forth by the commission's Solid Waste Committee that met this week when it was advised the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) doesn't have an Environmental Impact Statement on surface water from the landfill.

Meanwhile, enforcement of Marshall County's contract with Waste Management Inc., the business that wants to expand use of its property at Cedar Ridge for expansion of the landfill, has again been reconsidered and found to be lacking. It requires pavement at convenience centers for household trash, running water and sewerage facilities instead of gravel lots, bottled water and portable toilets.

During a previous Solid Waste Committee meeting, commissioners agreed they should find out if TDEC has an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on surface water flowing from the landfill and Monday night Commissioner Don Ledford, chairman of the committee, reported results of his inquiry.

"It does not exist," Ledford said about an EIS on Cedar Ridge as sought from a TDEC official at the department's Columbia office.

"'Don't you think it should?'" Ledford said, reporting his inquiry.

The TDEC official replied, "'You're probably right,'" Ledford said.

Commissioners on the Solid Waste Committee then agreed that topic should become an issue for all of the commissioners when they gather Monday for their 5:30 p.m. discussion on county issues. That open public meeting will be in the second floor conference room of the Courthouse Annex on Lewisburg's public square.

"In the future considerations for codes," Commissioner Larry McKnight suggested, "maybe we should write that in Marshall County Codes - that an EIS is required for any future landfill."

"Or expansion," Ledford added. "We're dealing with Marshall County soil."

He then raised a question on whether an EIS is required if federal funding is part of a project. Without an answer, the matter appeared headed to the non-voting workshop and committee discussion turned to another issue.

Environmental Impact Statements are a result of detailed analysis of what would happen to land, water, air and other conditions if a project is conducted. A less stringent examination and report is called an Environmental Assessment.

Such examinations are a result of the federal Clean Water Act of 1972. That law included requirements for storm water management such as silt fences around construction sites to prevent siltation of streams and the impairment of aquatic life. Enforcement of storm water controls, however, was delayed for more than 20 years as different federal administrations had different priorities and the Environmental Protection Agency was sued for lack of enforcement, although enforcement also required interpretation of congressional intent.

Another conflict between the county and Waste Management Inc. was reviewed during this week's meeting of the Solid Waste Committee. It's over the county's contract with the company on convenience centers for household trash.

"The contract says 'paving the center,'" County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas advised the committee.

"But," McKnight said, "that's not happened since the contract addendum was signed."

Additional agreements were reached for the contract when Waste Management was requesting county approval to proceed with its application to the state for greater use of property at the landfill. Commissioner Mary Ann Neill, chairwoman of the commission noted the contract addendum was signed in December 2007.

Discussion Monday reflected support for stating deadlines in such agreements. Consequences were also advocated under such circumstances.

"Every time there's a complaint" about convenience centers, McKight said, "they (Waste Management) move a bin and put down gravel."

Pavement and an electrical trash compactor at the convenience centers are among the facilities the county deserves, according to discussion.

Running water and not bottled water, and bathrooms, not port-a-potties are required, McKnight said Monday.

In an interview Wednesday, Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas added that the county was also to make a determination on whether state and/or federal grants were available for that project. As of December 2007, it was determined that there was none, so Thomas said, "The clock started running then."

Meanwhile, Thomas remains unsure how sewer service could be provided to the convenience centers. The centers are on solid rock, or rocky soil, he said of the rural facilities at Chapel Hill, Belfast, Ostella and Old Columbia Road. Such conditions have been difficult, if not impossible, for septic tanks that would have to be buried and the soil might not percolate.

In other business conducted during the Solid Waste Committee meeting, the commissioners agreed to vote for the expenditure of $41,500 by Thomas for three purchases.

He's to buy a skid loader for about $20,000 and about 10 front-load containers for about $11,000, as well as a fence for $10,500.

The 10 containers are to be located at various places to be announced for the collection of recyclable paper, plastic and metal, much in the same way as it's done at a convenience center at the Walgreen drug store in the southeast corner of Nashville Highway and Ellington Parkway.

The skid loader is to help keep materials "moving at the shop" where transfer of recyclables is conducted.

The fence won't be bought immediately. It's to be for enclosure of recycling facilities that may be moved to a more permanent location.

The $41,500 spending authorization is about 10 percent of the $408,000 Thomas requested to expand county solid waste operations in anticipation of increased recycling with the prospect of Cedar Ridge being closed.

The commission authorized spending of up to $425,000 of borrowed money, but Thomas says he plans to refrain from exceeding his $408,000 request.

He's already spent $366,000 on a baler and $1,000 on a fuel tank.

Interest isn't being paid on the borrowed money until it's drawn down from an account establish for these projects.