Landfill expansion decision expected in November

Friday, October 30, 2009

A decision on whether Waste Management Inc. may dispose of garbage on 11 more acres at Cedar Ridge Landfill is expected next month, according to Marshall County's solid waste director.

Mike Apple, director of the Solid Waste Management Division in the Tennessee Department of Conservation and Environment, met with town and county leaders on Oct. 13 and reported the state would have a decision on landfill expansion in 30 days, reported solid waste director Morgan Thomas.

The decision is crucial to Marshall County because if the landfill can't expand, it will probably close, thereby leaving the county with the legal responsibility of making trash disposal services available to its residents. One alternative discussed this week, and at several previous county meetings, is a fee of about $160 per year that would be charged to county residents who don't live in a municipality. The cities would also face consequences. Lewisburg takes its collections to Cedar Ridge. Chapel Hill and Cornersville residents are served by a Waste Management contract with their towns.

Given the pending announcement, county commission's Solid Waste Committee voted to have a resolution ready for the Nov. 23 meeting of the County Commission to start a solid waste fee. They also decided to recess their meeting that night so they could reconvene at 6 p.m. Nov. 12 to fine-tune their resolution and see if it's still needed.

Thomas reported to the committee on Tuesday. He outlined various decisions that could be handed down by TDEC and what that would mean for residents and their local governments if the landfill is denied an expansion permit.

The county's Solid Waste Committee, led by Commissioner Don Ledford, has developed a short-range plan on what to do if the landfill is to be closed. While many of them have been discussed at length during public meetings, there's a new wrinkle in the timeline as circumstances may arise if the state's decision is to lead toward closure of the landfill.

Robert Cheney, business development director for Waste Management's office in Franklin, attended the committee meeting Tuesday and reported that if the decision must lead to closure, then the landfill wouldn't stop receiving trash immediately.

"The contract is (for) life of site," Cheney told nearly a dozen officials and residents in the Courthouse Annex that Tuesday night about the most recent addendum to Waste Management's contract with Marshall County.

Under the contract, the company operates the county's convenience centers.

Waste Management would have to give the county at least 90 days notice before the state decision affects its ability to serve the county, he said.

And, at the current rate of delivery, the landfill has enough space left now to continue to receive trash truck deliveries for about 12-16 months, Cheney said Tuesday.

That implies the rate of deliveries has been significantly curtailed since Waste Management officials speculated in November last year that the space left might last less than a year. That was when the landfill was receiving wastes from Marshall County, its residents and municipalities, and Bedford County.

Meanwhile, Thomas reported state and local officials have acknowledged that regardless of what decision is announced, there will be an appeal. Waste Management would use administrative remedies available in an attempt to obtain the expansion permit and that could lead to a Chancery Court case. If the decision is to permit expansion, there's an expectation that county residents and/or the Tri-County Environmental Association would challenge the state's permit in administrative courts and probably at the civil court level.