The State of Tennessee has notified Waste Management Inc. that Cedar Ridge Landfill is in violation of state law because it's polluting a spring, water flowing from it, and the creek further downstream.
Violations, according to a letter from the Department of Environment and Conservation, can result in civil penalties that range from $100 per day to $10,000 per day depending on the part of state code that applies.
Vickery Spring, just south of the entrance to the landfill, is polluted with substances that are typically part of leachate, a liquid that seeps from garbage in landfills and is collected for disposal, the state and landfill company have said.
"Cedar Ridge Landfill has ... identified a section of pipe within our leachate transfer pipes that failed a pressure test," Cedar Ridge spokeswoman Terri Douglas advised landfill neighbors on Wednesday.
"Due to this apparent mechanical failure," she said, "we immediately shut down and abandoned use of this particular section of the pipeline and are using a backup pipeline instead.
"We have not confirmed that this is the source of the discharge and, therefore, we are continuing to further evaluate potential sources of the discharge," Douglas said.
TDEC's letter from Dennis Lampley and Ryan Owens, both of the Columbia Environmental Field Office, was dated June 26, and it directed Waste Management Landfill Operations Director Charles Gillian to submit "all information it has available concerning the release and a detailed plan to investigate the cause of the release and mitigate the impacts of the release."
Douglas said on Wednesday the company intends "to share accurate information as quickly as possible regarding the landfill and Vickery Branch and our operation."
Like County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett's recent announcements advising residents to avoid the polluted stream and creek, Douglas said, "Cedar Ridge Landfill is still advising neighbors not to enter Vickery Branch ... until otherwise advised by TDEC or us."
Residents of and owners of property near Poteet Road -- directly across from the landfill's front driveway -- have been concerned for weeks. That includes a property owner who said Waste Management Inc. moved his horses to another location.
"We're just concerned that they haven't posted any warning signs out there" at the stream flowing west from the spring, said Scott Dennis of Heflin, Ala., the owner of property west of the landfill and south of Mooresville Highway.
It's where his horses were located.
The pipe that failed a pressure test is not in, or part of, a landfill cell or disposal area of the landfill, Douglas said.
Landfills are constructed to collect leachate. Cedar Ridge hauls the liquid away in tank trucks. North of Murfreesboro, the Middle Point Sanitary Landfill at Walter Hill in Rutherford County pre-treats its leachate and pumps it into a sewer it built with Murfreesboro in the 1990s.
Reaction from two Marshall County commissioners on Wednesday came from Larry McKnight and Billy Spivey.
"I am glad that TDEC is on top of this problem," McKnight said. "This appears to be a continuous problem and it has to be fixed. I want to see a permanent fix and not a band-aid.
"Yes, there are fines associated with the violation, but let's fix the problem," McKnight said. "I was also glad to see that Cedar Ridge notified the surrounding residents of that the problem exists.
"The national byword now is 'going green,'" the commissioner concluded. "For Marshall County, cleaning up Victory Spring's tributary should be at the top of the list for the county 'going green.'"
Commissioner Billy Spivey said there are tests for pollution and repairs can be made.
"I think it's a safe bet that they're working feverishly" to deal with the situation, Spivey said.
"You still have to ask: ... If they find it and fix it, will the stigma still affect the approval of cell seven?" he said.
Waste Management has asked TDEC for a permit to use more land it owns at Cedar Ridge for disposal of garbage. Obtaining the permit has been a goal for Waste Management officials for several years.
"There is a very common mistake in the evaluation process," Spivey continued, referring to "the recency error."
It is the influence of recent events on a performance record that might span years and it's when the recency of an infraction is fresh on the mind of someone making an evaluation, he explained.
A violation in the first month of an employee's annual evaluation might win forgiveness, he said. Forgiveness might be warranted late in an evaluation period.
Meanwhile, County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett, who recalls a similar event within a decade here, was on Wednesday afternoon consulting with U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander on what might be done to protect the county that has a landfill and its consequences.