Leader Blues

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

TOP STORY > >Garbage in their front yard

By ALIYA FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

Neighbors of a proposed landfill expansion say they don’t want it in their backyards—or in Jacksonville’s front yard. Concerns have been raised about potential hazards, flooding Dupree Park and noise pollution.

Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), which has to approve the expansion of the dump, received comments signed by about 40 complainants during a public-comment period that ended Tuesday.

“I am ashamed to be a resident of this area, having to explain to my friends and relatives from out of state who drive by Two Pine on Hwy. 440 why we have a trash heap along the main highway,” James Yoast of Jacksonville wrote in a blistering letter to ADEQ.

The expanded landfill would be in Jacksonville at the North Belt freeway and Hwy. 67/167 junction, between the highway and the railroad tracks. The landfill would bring in 35 million cubic yards of garbage over 24 years.

“We will go through all those comments,” ADEQ spokesman Doug Szenher said, “We are not prepared to make a comment-by-comment response.”

Szenher said ADEQ wants to make sure the laws and regulations are followed in the expansion of the permit, so “it’s something we can defend if it’s appealed.”

Waste Management, which operates the Two Pine Landfill, has been attempting to expand it since 2006.

Neighbors of the current landfill are concerned they would be living near a bigger, higher landfill than what they look at now.

The permit application states more than 100 people live within two miles of the trash yard.

With the Indian Head Lake and North Lake subdivisions, and Rixie and McAlmont near the land to be used for an expansion, more than 500 people may be affected by a larger landfill.

Brian Leamons’ ADEQ engineering team will consider the environmental impact of the landfill before director Teresa Marks acts on it. His staff of engineers will review the residents’ concerns, but they may be unable to stop an expansion.

ADEQ could hold a public hearing on the issue if Marks decides one is needed. Szenher said it could be a possibility.

“The department has issued a draft permit, which means the permit could be finalized,” Leamons said. He would not specify when the permit would be approved. “It’s hard to say. It could be anywhere from a few weeks to a month,” he said.

Joey Price, who owns 50 acres that border the railroad tracks, said he was concerned Jacksonville’s image will be tarnished by the sight of more trash on its highway.

“It would concern me if I lived in Foxwood,” Price said.

He turned in 38 signatures on a letter that stated concerns about a landfill. “Real estate values are of major concern,” he said. Price said traffic has increased with growth and development in the area.

“That doesn’t count what that will grow to with an addition to the North Belt,” he said. “Anywhere else in the country…traffic means money.”

Under ADEQ regulations, a landfill cannot be within 1,000 feet of the highway unless landscaping blocks it.

Residents are also concerned the landfill could flood Dupree Park.

Price told city council members at a meeting last Thursday that flooding at the park might get worse if the landfill is expanded. The park often floods during heavy rain.

Bayou Meto is about a half mile north of the landfill.

The dumpsite has been augmented so that drains channel water to the northwest, discharging into Brushy Island Creek and back into Bayou Meto.

“During the landfill process, the floodplain was considered,” Leamons said. “Necessary floodplain changes are considered before approval,” he said.

He said the Army Corps of Engineers has approved a review of the area.

Lee Jeffrey of the Brushy Island community wrote to ADEQ to state that community’s support of the planned expansion of the landfill.

“We look forward to sharing many more years with Waste Management as our neighbor,” he wrote.

Price, like Jeffrey, said he never had any complaint against Two Pine before this proposed expansion.

“I’m just against the landfill in our front yard,” Price said. “They do a good job as far as I can tell. I’m not opposed to what they’ve done in the past.”

The landfill is the only site in the state that converts waste to energy, generating electricity for 4,500 homes in North Little Rock. Waste Management maintains that it is an environmentally safe company.

David Conrad of Waste Management’s public relations staff was invited back to the city council to respond to questions regarding Dupree Park and further impact on the residents of Jacksonville.