Differences over garbage prompt sharp exchange

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

CHAPEL HILL - The on-going dispute over Cedar Ridge Landfill near Lewisburg - simmering on the back burner for months - appears to have boiled over last week.

Town Administrator Mike Hatten invited Marshall County Commissioner Don Ledford, chairman of the county's Solid Waste Committee, to attend this month's meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.

Alderwoman Marion Joyce and other area officials are concerned that if Cedar Ridge Landfill is denied an expansion permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, then garbage collection costs might nearly quadruple for residents of this north Marshall municipality.

Joyce's concern arises from a report by Griggs & Maloney, the Murfreesboro-based environmental engineering firm. The report was produced for the county on a recommendation from the Solid Waste Committee.

In general terms, Joyce says the engineers say Chapel Hill residents' garbage collection costs might go from $12 to $45 per month.

Annually, the new, theoretical price "would be very similar to what many of our people pay in property taxes just to the city," Joyce said.

That increase is one view of cost changes if Waste Management Inc. is denied a permit to use more of its land at Cedar Ridge Landfill. Without that requested permit, the landfill would probably close in 2010.

Costs for garbage collection could increase for other residents of Marshall County and its municipalities, Joyce says, referring to the consulting engineer's report.

If Waste Management is granted the expansion permit by TDEC, then the landfill might be able to accept garbage for several more years. Estimates range from six to eight years. It all depends on the rate of deliveries.

Either way, Ledford points out, the landfill would eventually close and the county has a responsibility under state law to have a plan for garbage disposal.

The business running the landfill on Mooresville Pike will "either get approval or not," Ledford said, turning to the company's technical descriptions of the last two areas seen by that company as appropriate for garbage disposal. "Cell No. 6 is still receiving, but it will fill up. Then Waste Management goes to Cell 7 if approved... If not, the county must plan on what to do for disposal of solid waste as dictated by law. One of the things we are doing is to get as many people to wrap their arms around recycling."

Recycling, he says, reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills and therefore reduces hauling and dumping costs while earning some revenue through the sale of recyclable metals, plastics and paper.

Allied, the company that runs Middlepoint Landfill at Walter Hill in Rutherford County north of Murfreesboro has discussed several options including providing a transfer station or taking the trash directly to that landfill, he said. No decision has been made on what should be done, partly because TDEC hasn't decided on whether it will grant Waste Management the requested permit.

Joyce reported in a telephone interview that she "told Mr. Ledford that basically, you'd be eliminating competition which is what you'd be doing if you closed Cedar Ridge. [The trash] could only go to the landfill in Rutherford County run by Allied."

Bill Griggs, an owner of the environmental engineering company advising the county, has recommended against spending money on a county-owned and operated transfer station that would receive trash from garbage trucks and then have other trucks haul it out of the county if Cedar Ridge Landfill closes. It's too expensive, he said.

Joyce said that the environmental consultant held hearings to get information from residents on what they thought should be done. Now that the report is completed and costs have been calculated, the residents deserve another set of hearings.

Various area leaders commenting on the meeting's exchange between the town and county officials noted that Ledford suggested Chapel Hill-area residents consider the effects of a landfill on the county's environment and that Joyce replied county commissioners approved a quarry near Chapel Hill and that has its impact on the environment.

Asked about such an exchange, Ledford commented, "I don't know what her (Joyce's) agenda was. It wasn't to gather information. She proceeded to take over the meeting and I didn't present much on what was happening to the county with regard to solid waste issues. The county is trying to prepare for when Cedar Ridge closes."

Joyce explained in another telephone interview that in her neighborhood: "Two doors down, there's a lady who's 90 years old and that (the estimated increase in garbage removal costs) would be quite an increase for her.

"We wanted to find out how to work together to keep the cost down," Joyce said, adding the town is looking for "alternatives" that might include: the city paying for the increased cost; have residents take their trash to convenience centers, or; devise a plan to reduce costs, or find leveled costs.