97% of letters favor landfill expansion

Wednesday, March 3, 2010
These three manila wallet folders contain 687 letters to the state about the planned landfill expansion. State letters acknowledging receipt are included.

Only 19 of 687 letters sent to the state on whether Cedar Ridge should be expanded oppose the request from Waste Management Inc.

That realization came quickly during a three-hour review of letters at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation's Environmental Field Office in Columbia.

A majority of the responses to the state's call for public comment on the requested expansion permit are form letters, but there are various forms, and two letters' sentiment was summarized on a state file label quoting one of the operative phrases in the letters.

The letters allege that the decision will be made by "left-wing environmentalists, enviro nut jobs."

Another letter cites the Golden Rule: "Listen to the silent majority," Bo Warner of Chapel Hill wrote. "Marshall County does not like trash coming in... Why should we dump on someone else? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Opposition to expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill was loud and, to some extent, organized at several public meetings of the Marshall County Commission and Lewisburg's City Council during more than three years of public debate.

An early review of letters - those received by the state during its first few weeks of a comment period - indicated there were only a dozen letters, but hundreds arrived close to the Feb. 8 deadline.

If the landfill closes, "we may have to ship our garbage somewhere else... (That) is no better for the environment," wrote Robert E. Arnold of Chapel Hill.

Marshall County Commissioner Dean Delk's letter quoted the Tribune's on-line poll as saying 86.5 percent of the respondents favored granting Waste Management's request for a permit to expand the landfill.

Unemployment and a $160 waste-management fee would be among the results if the landfill were closed, Delk said.

Andy Robinson of Lewisburg wrote "as a professional environmental chemist" with 22 years of experience, including his observation of contaminated areas near Newark, N.J., where "nothing ... grew on a several hundred acre industrial site...

"In fact, the nearby Arthur Kill River caught on fire two weeks after I left the site," Robinson said. "Cedar Ridge Landfill is not a contaminated area...

"The few stormwater-generated spill-over events and the recent broken pipe leachate problem are very minor in comparison," he wrote. Waste Management has quickly responded and expertly corrected these problems."

TDEC commissioner Jim Fyke said in December he had declined to issue a draft permit for the landfill's expansion. He then opened a 45-day comment period as a last step toward finalizing his tentative decision.

Fyke directed letters to Mike Apple, director of TDEC's Division of Solid Waste.

"Go ahead Mike," William H. Walker of Gills Chapel Road wrote to Apple, "increase taxes in four counties, create more pollution running trucks down the road with trash..."

Letters were received from residents of Pulaski, McMinnville, Tullahoma, Nashville, Columbia, Spring Hill, Thompson Station, Normandy, Lynchburg, Murfreesboro, Madison, La Vergne, Belfast, Cornersville, Lewisburg, Brentwood, Winchester and Pleasant View.

Closure of one landfill will only result in opening another, Thomas Scott of Garrett Road said. Government is doing things that don't make sense, he said.

Stacey Cothran of Coble Road said, "We cannot have ... policies dictated by left wing environmentalists. Enviro nut-jobs."

Industries supporting expansion of the landfill include Walker Die Casting, Teledyne Electronics, Brothers Fine Foods, AEP, Hale's Cabinets, Harber Valve, Columbia Clayton Environmental Services, Littlejohn Engineering.

Some letters were sent twice and the TDEC file in Columbia has a folder for those duplicates, including one from County Commissioner E.W. Hill who said Tennessee Has a reputation for allowing business to prosper and that "brought Saturn to Tennessee."

There was an anti-government sentiment in the letters, but several local leaders sent letters.

Warren County Executive John Pelham said expansion is critical to the economic well being of the region.

Winchester City Administrator Beth J. Rhoton also said the landfill is critical to the economic well being of the area because without it, there will be a monopoly over waste disposal. Franklin County Mayor Richard Stewart noted competition keeps rates low.

Allied's BFI landfill, Middle Point Sanitary Landfill in Walter Hill, just north of Murfreesboro, is the next closest landfill.

Columbia and Maury County mayors Dean Dickey and Jim Bailey wrote in favor of the expansion.

TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart said the department wanted to issue a decision within a month of the deadline for letters. That goal is Monday, March 8.