Excavation a potential solution to pollution

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

As the state is "coordinating potential and additional enforcement" to stop pollution near Cedar Ridge Landfill, the company says excavation of a pipeline and a water treatment project are possible remedies.

Waste Management Inc. on Thursday responded to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's June 26 notice that the landfill is in violation of the state's Water Quality Control Act and its Solid Waste Management Act.

If dye injected into the landfill's pipes used to collect leachate (wastewaters seeping from garbage) doesn't emerge within two weeks, employees at Cedar Ridge will prepare for excavation of a force-main [pipe] to find the leak, according to Jessica Preston, the environmental manager at Waste Management Inc. who's dealing with the pollution issue revealed at Vickery Spring just south of the landfill's driveway on Mooresville Highway.

However, her summary of the steps taken to deal with the pollution indicates the company has "already accomplished" an early goal in dealing with the pollution. The company may have already eliminated the source of pollution by finding a pipe that failed a pressure test and then terminating use of that pipe through which leachate was pumped.

Furthermore, excavation of another pipe would be a "last resort" because of potential damage to other pipes, Preston wrote to Dennis Lampley and Ryan Owens of TDEC's field office in Columbia.

Meanwhile, Waste Management proposes to build a system to detain and collect polluted water flowing from Vickery Spring so that it may be taken away and treated, Preston explained in her July 2 letter.

"The water collection system will likely consist of a sandbag cofferdam or similar structure and portable pump to isolate and remove water as it emerges...

"We are taking proactive measures to protect human health and the environment while we identify the specific source of these contaminants," she said.

Still, the release of substances that are to be collected and disposed of elsewhere has been deemed a violation of state and federal laws. Both of the laws are enforced by TDEC, but that's done through two divisions of the department.

"The department is coordinating potential and additional enforcement between the Divisions of Solid Waste Management and Water Pollution Control regarding violations of both the Solid Waste Management Act and the Tennessee Water Quality Control Act," TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said.

Yesterday, it was unclear to Lockhart when TDEC might take enforcement steps. It was, however, clear that the landfill company was responding to directives from the department.

"Typically," Lockhart continued, "with an enforcement order there are actual civil penalties attached."

Fines can range from $100 to $10,000 daily since the Notice of Violation was issued on June 26.

As Lockhart has acknowledged, Waste Management has "put together a plan to address the issue at Vickery Spring," the landfill's neighbors have been receiving hand-delivered reports from Waste Management's community relations director.

One of the neighbors is Scott Dennis of Heflin, Ala., his son, Derrick and daughter-in-law, Andrea, of Nashville. They bought 72 acres along Mooresville Highway in June 2006 and are building a log cabin for weekends. The cabin is within easy access to Interstate 65 and is at a mutually agreeable place between their homes.

Derrick and Andrea Dennis live on Second Avenue in Nashville and "That's why they come to Lewisburg for the weekends," Scott Dennis said.

Derrick and Andrea have two Tennessee Walking Horses and two Appaloosas. All four are now being kept at horse stables rented by Waste Management Inc.

The company's spokeswoman, Terri Douglas, made the arrangements after speaking with Dennis and leaders of the landfill company. Dennis is not always at the family cabin and the horses need access to water, something they can't get now because the stream flowing through his property is polluted.

"The minnows are gone," he said.

Like others affected by this situation, Dennis has not taken an accusatory tone.

"We don't really want to be critical of anyone," he said.

Still, he's "extremely disappointed" and felt an obligation to place yellow warning tape at the edges of the family land.

"As property owners," Dennis said, "we're somewhat responsible if someone gets hurt, so we've put out these warning tapes and we hope that will be adequate."