State OK'd landfill closure by city

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Steps were taken Thursday toward helping Craig Moore Road residents who have unusable well water just west of Lewisburg, according to a decision by the city's Water and Wastewater Board.

Meanwhile, City Manager David Orr has pointed to a letter from the state to the city saying closure of the old city landfill was accomplished "according to the requirements of regulations" in state law.

The document would appear to mitigate a state geologist's "professional opinion" that what ails private water wells is from the old city landfill that was operated on private property.

Chemicals and natural elements found in two wells first tested by Waste Management Inc., the parent company of Cedar Ridge Landfill, are not substances found at Cedar Ridge, a company official said during the monthly board meeting. A state geologist says it's his opinion the substances are from garbage dumped on land the city rented for a landfill years ago.

Affected residents point to a state-contracted road builder's blasting to widen Mooresville Highway to explain why the materials appear in wells now. A state transportation spokeswoman has said since the water is underground, it may well be impossible to conclude blasting was the cause.

Meanwhile, the highest concentrations of elements in the water are naturally occurring and there's no health advisory issues regarding water with such elements. Furthermore, the levels of chemicals are lower than what would be deemed adverse to human health.

So, as the cause of the change in the residents' water is just as murky as the water itself, the solution appears to have started with a suggestion from Edward Potts, the newest member of the utility's Board of Directors.

Utility administrators should "proceed immediately to look at our design criteria" for extending city water to the residents, and to determine "where to start and stop" such a pipeline, Potts said in a motion that was seconded by Billy Hill, one of three water and wastewater directors. Chairman Hershel Davis' vote made the decision unanimous.

The three men had heard from Archie Fremen, spokesman for the neighborhood, and one of two residents whose water was tested by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. He and his neighbors with bad water quality attended the utility's monthly meeting "to impress upon the board that we need an immediate resolution."

While the board complied with a directive for "immediate" exploration into what could be done, there are steps that will require other votes by the board.

"We will not be doing anything without board approval," Water and Wastewater Department Superintendent Kenneth Carr said after the meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Pepper Biggers concurred, noting Potts' suggestion that, in Biggers' words, administrators should "investigate what we can do within our policies at this time."

Where a pipeline might start seemed obvious among those at the meeting and discussions afterward. It's the water main that parallels Mooresville Highway and reaches Exit 32 of Interstate 65.

As for where the pipeline should stop, Carr issued his early opinion.

"I do not foresee us going all the way to Old Columbia Pike," Carr said.

Utilities rarely extend service to places where customers are few and far between. It's not cost effective.

Given the request for immediate relief from unusable well water, questions arose about a timeline, and it became clear that a wide variety of issues face the utility and the residents.

"There might be a possibility of getting a state grant" to defray costs, Carr said. "That could take months."

Another time-consuming aspect of extending any water service system includes engineering for designs that would be made available to contractors who might want to bid on a city construction contract. The bid process requires time for contractors to study plans and write a bid.

Carr indicated more definitive steps might be taken this fall, but it was unclear when construction might start and finish.