Since last month, Waste Management, owner of the landfill on Coopertown Road, has been operating the facility without a host agreement with Logan County and is now holding all the cards as to how much waste can be brought into the “dump” daily. The company did offer a new agreement, but one that would allow them to double the tonnage brought into the landfill daily and the magistrates are not happy.
For over 20 years, the county has had a host agreement with the landfill owners regulating how much tonnage was allowed in the dump and Waste Management was no exception. The agreement that just expired called for 1,150 tons per day to be brought into the landfill. Waste Management is now saying they want to bring in twice as much per day at 2,500 tons - unfortunately the county has no firm leverage to stop them.
When the agreement, which comes up every six years, ended a few weeks ago, it was Waste Management that was in the driver’s seat as the state does not require the multi-million corporation to even have agreement. Since the company is planning on closing that landfill by 2015, they want to fill it up as quick as they can.
Waste Management came to the county in 2009 asking to fill up the landfill within five years instead of the 15 to 20 they had wanted. Negotiations had failed between the company and the property owners the landfill sits on forcing the company out earlier than they had anticipated. Waste Management even offered the county $1.6 million to amend the host agreement they were under at that time with the county; however, the court was not convinced. But before the offer had much time to simmer or time for the court to accept, Waste Management mysteriously took the offer off the table. Now a few years later, Waste Management intends to do just that… fill it up and now they don’t need the county’s approval to do so.
County Attorney Joe Ross advised the court of two options it has. The first is to accept the new host agreement Waste Management has drawn up for the next three years, which includes the increase in tonnage per day along with pretty much all the perks Waste Management has been offering the county over the years such as two free dump days each month for the citizens of Logan County, free waste disposal to the solid waste coordinator for illegal dumps, 3 cents on every ton to go for economic development and a new offer of 2 cents per ton to go to the litter abatement program for cleaning up roadside trash.
With the previous host agreement, the county was getting $200,000 annually.
The second option, which Ross explained with some apprehension, is to draft an ordinance trying to force regulations upon Waste Management, as well as placing a tax on the tonnage that goes into the landfill. Ross warned the court if they chose the second option he was sure Waste Management would take the county to court, possibly file an injunction and while the decision was caught up in litigation, would most likely fill the landfill up anyway and cost the county a lot of money.
“It’s my job to advise the court of what its options are and I will follow what you choose to do,” said Ross reiterating that the county would have to spend a lot of money in legal fees on a case that could be dragged out for at least the three years the landfill remained open.
“I sympathize with those who live in the area of the landfill,” said Ross. “I wished it had not been allowed to come in back in 1990 in the first place.”
Some of those who Ross was sympathetic to appeared in court Tuesday to give their opinions. Barry Smotherman, who lives beside the landfill, has been fighting Waste Management for years over debris-ridden roads, muddy mailboxes and the odor he says is all caused by the landfill. Smotherman took a few minutes Tuesday quoting magistrates from previous meetings, handing out photographs of what he considers evidence of wrong doings by the company and pleading with the court for help.
“We feel like we’re fighting our own battle without the help of the county,” said Smotherman, speaking about the residents on Coopertown Road.
Others spoke out against the landfill at Tuesday’s meeting including Prentice White, a member of the Kedron Church of Christ, which sits across from the landfill. White said Kedron was one of the oldest churches in Logan County and members couldn’t fellowship outside due to the horrible smells coming from the landfill.
“The smell is so bad no one wants to go there,” said White, adding he believes Waste Management isn’t covering the trash piles up like they are supposed to and they are exposed.
Carl Seidler, another Coopertown Road resident, was very frustrated at what he was hearing from the court that they had no say about how much is taken into the landfill. Seidler said it was frustrating to see all the convoys of trucks coming down Coopertown Road in the early morning hours bringing in waste from Nashville when Logan County’s waste isn’t even disposed in Logan’s landfill. “They say we need the landfill, we don’t,” said Seidler.
According to Smotherman there have been 51 complaints against the landfill since 2001; however, the EPA did not find them to be in violation with any of them. Smotherman believes the EPA is not monitoring the landfill close enough.
Magistrate Russell Poore said he knows the smell out by the landfill could “gag a maggot” and he also sympathized with the residents in that area. Magistrate Drexel Johnson said the odor has spread tremendously and can be smelled way into Lewisburg.
None of the magistrates were willing to accept Waste Management’s host agreement proposal Tuesday, neither were they ready to enter into possible litigation by constructing an ordinance to force their hand. They did pass a motion made by Magistrate Jo Orange to send a letter to Frankfort, even possibly to the governor to show their concern about the operations of the landfill and to strongly suggest that the EPA monitor the situation closer.
Magistrate Jack Crossley made a motion to offer Waste Management a deal of 1,400 tons per day, but his motion died for lack of a second.”We represent the people of this county and we need to do what we can to let Waste Management know we don’t appreciate what they are doing to our county,” said Crossley.
The court tabled the issue with Ross telling them Waste Management may take the deal off the table because they chose to do nothing. “I think the court needs to figure out what direction it wants to take. If we write an ordinance it needs to be done quickly, three years is not along time,” said Ross.
Judge/Executive Logan Chick said he had spent hours with Waste Management talking about the host agreement. He said they wanted to bring in 3,000 tons per day, but through talking to them they came down to 2,500. Chick feels like the agreement is the best Waste Management will offer considering the state agrees that there is no need for an agreement at all and won’t require them to have one. “They don’t have to come back to the table,” said Chick.