Want to do something about the landfill? Get involved. Step one is educate yourself. Step two is call the people with the power to stop it and and tell them to stop it. Get involved with the numerous groups around town who are working on it, go to government meetings and talk to your friends and get them to go too, call your county commissioner. Now is when those decisions are being made that will affect the future of this community so use your voice to be a part of it. With that said...
Nothing about the landfill is as transparent as it should be.
You’ve heard the saying about the “fox guarding the henhouse”? Well, in this case BFI/Republic Services is the fox that built the henhouse. The contract with the County is so one sided that it can make you wonder who the county attorneys were really working for.
According to the contract, any attempts to make changes to the contract could mean that there is no more free dumping for the county at the landfill and/or that we lose the host fees we’ve been getting. Those host fees are down lately by the way. They used to be around $1,000,000/year and lately have shrunk to $700,000 or less. And in the beginning, we got $1.00 per ton of out of county waste. Now it is $1.20/ton and cannot go up because the contract set that rate.. IMHO not worth the cost to the community or the environment of the county.
BFI/Republic have operated this landfill since 1995. Under them it is a Class 1 landfill which accepts household waste, commercial waste, and permitted “special waste” (materials that are difficult to manage). The contract has no end until the landfill closes. In the contract, the county is prohibited from making any laws or regulations that would be any more stringent than state and federal regulations. The county is also not permitted any say in what kind of waste goes in. So say we object to the many tons of dead animals that go in there weekly, sorry folks, you don’t get a say. And BFI was cited in the last year for accepting more special waste than was permitted, up to 32% over their limit on some days. No telling what it was either, none of our business, they say.
BFI does their own water testing near the landfill and testers have to sign an NDA. They also get to keep their water reports on site, and the public has no access to them.
The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) is charged with keeping them in line and there are regulations, but there seems to be few consequences to BFI for violating them. They’ve had fines, but there’s been no correction to the problems. And the amount of assurance money they are supposed to keep on hand was reduced from $147,000,000 to 85,400,000 and 20 years taken off the time they are responsible for it. And it is near impossible for the general public to find out when and why they’ve been cited for violating regulations.
And here we go with another story of BFI/Republic being underhanded in their handling of dangerous conditions at a landfill. In Bridgerton, MO, There were two landfills. One contained WW2 nuclear waste. The second, next door, contained a subsurface fire. They were going to be required to get the radioactive waste out. One of the sneaky little things they did was call up out of state residents who were on the route they would take to safely store the radioactive waste, claiming to represent the EPA and warning them of the danger of moving radioactive material past them. By the way there is low level radioactive waste here, not the same as in Missouri, but yes the landfill underground chemical fires. They’ve done a similar sneaky thing here when the call for recycling was big. A group called Save Our Future Rutherford popped up on Facebook talking about recycling - it was Republic. And when the county was interviewing them for what their ideas for the future were - Republic’s answer to recycling was along the lines of it’s not lucrative now, but possibly in the future.
At the same time in Missouri BFI’’s lobbyists worked with a State Senator to introduce a bill limiting the ability of citizens to sue them for damages. Here Mark Pody recently introduced a bill to make it easier for a landfill to be opened and for old quarries to be used as landfillls. Hmm, I wonder where that idea came from.
Back to transparency and current problems. There was a recent meeting of the Central TN Regional Planning Board that Republic sued after the board said no to their request for an expansion. This meeting was court ordered so that the board could accept new evidence into the record and vote again. The city, who seems to be the only one fighting a landfill expansion, submitted a long list of documents in support of the board saying no once again. Republic’s lawyer submitted a few documents too, mostly trying to deny there’s a problem and saying it is all fine. It isn’t fine, there’s an ongoing aluminum waste reaction, a subsurface fire that has, by BFI’s own report to TDEC, “damaged the integrity of the base liner”. They have numerous and continued leachate management violations that caused TDEC to deny them a permit adjustment last year. And of course the odor, which despite their “efforts”, continues to get worse. Are these things enough to break the contract?
Now is the time to take action. Let your commissioners, city councilors, state reps and senators know what you think. The next meeting of the Board is February 24th, 6pm at that lovely airport we have. Want to know more? Go to the meeting, they need to know the public is interested.