Landfill appeals denial: Expansion request going to state board

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Waste Management Inc. on Thursday appealed a state commissioner's decision to deny a permit for the expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill.

"We disagree with their findings and we are looking forward to our day before the board," Waste Management Business Development Director Robert Cheney said Monday.

The Tennessee Solid Waste Control Board's next meeting is in August. The panel meets every other month. Cheney is hoping for a hearing this summer. However, a spokeswoman for the state has said the hearing might be conducted in about six to eight months, meaning late fall or winter.

Expansion of Cedar Ridge Landfill just west of Lewisburg has been sought for several years. The expansion is on the company's property north of Mooresville Highway, the road used by most of the trucks hauling trash to the landfill.

Waste Management has "dramatically" reduced deliveries to the landfill, Cheney said.

Landfill life spans are governed by the rate of deliveries and available space.

Asked how much time is left for Cedar Ridge before it's full, Cheney indicated it could be seven to 10 months.

"We're looking at the end of this year or in the first quarter of next year," he said. "That's when we are anticipating filling up permitted air space. Our hope is that we could move into the expansion area" before there's no more room at the landfill.

To prepare for such an eventuality, Marshall County and its municipalities have taken different steps.

The county commissioners on the Solid Waste Committee have been perfecting a resolution on obtaining the services of a solid waste hauler. The resolution includes a proposed $160 per year solid waste fee that would be charged to every household in the county that's not served by a municipality.

Meanwhile, Lewisburg has contracted with Allied Waste, the company that operates Middle Point Sanitary Landfill at Walter Hill. Allied would collect and carry trash to that landfill north of Murfreesboro. Collection of household trash would be by the private hauler. Curbside collection of recyclable paper, metal and plastic would continue to be a city service. Private collection and disposal of city residents' trash would start on July 1, the first day of the next fiscal year.

The lawyer who will be representing Waste Management's interests at the Solid Waste Control Board is John P. Williams of Tune, Entrekin & White. The state has assigned two attorneys for this case: David Henry and Max Fleischer, legal staffers for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

Denial of the expansion permit by TDEC the "is not supported by the evidence which will be presented to the Board," Williams wrote in his petition to the board for an appeal hearing.

Waste Management contends there's "no significant potential for surface collapse" of the area where trash would be buried over a capped sinkhole, he said. Company officials have displayed their plans to the Lewisburg City Council and at a public hearing on how the engineered cap would withstand the weight from many tons of garbage.

However, TDEC has said during development of three other places where trash is buried at Cedar Ridge, there were significant problems because of "dropouts," or the "failure of the rock structure." Furthermore, TDEC said a 67-foot-deep cave was discovered in one of those areas and a chief reason this area wasn't authorized for trash disposal before was because of caves.

Williams' petition to the Solid Waste Control Board says the flow of water underground "will not contribute" to the potential for collapse, or cause significant degradation of groundwater.

"Cedar Ridge has," TDEC stated in documents issued about the time the expansion request was denied, "been issued six separate director's orders ... between 1998 and 2009 for the discharge of pollutants to waters of the state."

Nevertheless, Williams points out that Cedar Ridge Landfill has been in operation since 1991 and before his client took over operation of the facility, it was operated by Sanifill of Tennessee, and USA Waste of Tennessee.

Furthermore, Williams claims constitutional grounds for the Solid Waste Control Board to overrule the decision by TDEC's commissioner, Jim Fyke.

"TDEC is imposing a higher standard on the Cedar Ridge Landfill than it has imposed on other landfills located in Karst Terrain," Williams wrote to the Department, "and is thereby depriving Cedar Ridge of the equal protection of the law."

TDEC spokeswoman Meg Lockhart was asked when the appeal might be heard.

"We do not have a date for the hearing at this time," Lockhart said. "There is a substantial amount of legal work that will have to take place before a hearing can be set. I am told this could take approximately six to eight months."

The TDEC spokeswoman provided an overview of the process leading to a hearing: An Administrative Law Court judge would be assigned; Attorneys for TDEC and Waste Management must discuss the case, evidence and witnesses; And depositions would have to be taken.

"To my knowledge," Cheney said, "this will be our first (appeal to that board) in all of Tennessee."

Waste Management's appeal to the Solid Waste Control Board isn't the last option for the company's request to expand the landfill.

"Taking it to the court system is an option," Cheney said.