Landfill to close for a while

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cedar Ridge Landfill is closing temporarily starting Dec. 1 because of a delay in its appeal for permission to expand, and because it's running out of space for more trash.

The effect of the suspension of trash deliveries to the facility on the north side of Mooresville Highway should have little, if any, effect on the average resident, but it will put more trash transfer trucks on public highways to other landfills.

It's also prompting discussions between Waste Management Inc., the company that owns the landfill, its customers, local governments including Marshall, Bedford and Moore counties and Columbia, and area industries such as GM, CKNA, Walker Die Casting, Smurfit-Stone, and Volunteer Disposal, among others.

Marshall County Solid Waste Director Morgan Thomas reported Waste Management's decision to county commissioners on Monday night, and Tuesday morning, Robert Cheney, the Waste Management leader who informed Thomas, explained the situation.

Waste Management has sought to use land at its facility where trash has not been buried. That so-called expansion at the landfill has been part of the company's plans for at least four years. After local consideration, public meetings and votes by the city council and county commission, Jim Fyke, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, decided against permitting the landfill expansion.

The company appealed to the Tennessee Solid Waste Disposal Control Board and a hearing was set for Dec. 7. That date has been changed to Feb. 1.

The reason for the delay, according to Cheney is "gathering of information, that's all...

"We asked for information from the state. They, in turn, asked for information from us," he said, likening this to the discovery process before a court trial.

Attorneys for both sides realized Dec. 7 would be too soon, so the Solid Waste Disposal Control Board postponed the case nearly two months.

"Conserving air space is critical until the permit is approved due to anticipated construction issues," said Cheney, director of business development for Waste Management in Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky.

There's a 90-day construction period "to get the new cell ready to go," he said. By using land where trash hasn't been buried at Cedar Ridge, the company might anticipate the facility could continue to operate another five to seven years, an estimate "based on historic levels during normal op conditions."

When deciding to suspend its acceptance of deliveries at the landfill, the company considered its contract with Marshall County, Cheney said. It will continue to operate convenience centers in Marshall County as required by the contract.

However, because the landfill pays host fees to the county, that revenue stream to the county will drop to zero for two months, according to Thomas' interpretation of Waste Management's agreement.

Instead of taking trash from convenience centers to Cedar Ridge, the trucks will go to Maury County's transfer station. The company has negotiated an agreement with Maury County to keep the transfer station open two hours longer - at Waste Management's expense - so the additional deliveries and transfers could be accomplished.

Waste Management officials were to meet with Bedford County leaders Tuesday and leaders in Moore County and Columbia have been notified.

"There's a clause in most agreements [saying:] If there's a change in ... state regulations... we can assist them in finding new sites," Cheney said. Household trash from Bedford, Moore and Columbia has been going to Cedar Ridge.

Meanwhile, Cheney anticipates a decision in February.

"Historically, what happens is there's an administrative law judge," Cheney said. "The board is the jury, but they can ask questions of witnesses. It's very much like a trial. The jury -- the board --makes a decision. It could be that day."