Leader Blues

Friday, March 07, 2008

TOP STORY >>Landfill owners defend growth

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville City Council and Mayor Tommy Swaim listened quietly Thursday to a presentation of a possible landfill expansion at the city’s entrance except for objections by aldermen Terry Sansing and Bob Stroud.

Waste Management, the private company that runs the landfill at the intersection of Hwy. 167/67 and I-440, has proposed to expand the dump’s size to almost three times its current capacity.

The private company’s representatives who attended the council meeting said the dump has to expand because I-440 has cut into landfill property, leaving little room to continue hauling trash into Jacksonville.

“This original footprint has been disrupted by I-440,” said George Wheatley, governmental affairs representative for Waste Management. He said I-440 cut into about 50 percent of the original dumpsite.

“We were approached by the Arkansas Highway Department, and we had not alot of choice in that matter,” Wheatley said.
Waste Management wants to expand the dump by 145 acres on its 530-acre Two Pine site in Jacksonville. The permit would ex-pand the landfill to 240 acres with the capacity to hold 21.5 million acres of trash.

The existing landfill is 86 acres. Waste Management has already gotten permission from the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to expand 40 acres on the northeast side of I-440.

“Our existing landfill…will be full by September this year,” David Conrad of Two Pine told the city council. He said a bigger landfill would receive an average of 2,000 tons a day.

Neighbors of the existing trash dump have told ADEQ that a bigger dump would depreciate real estate values because of its proximity to nearby homes.

A new development has already been planned on one side of the dump. New homes would be within 500 feet of the expansion.

Jacksonville council members expressed concerns that Dupree Park will be flooded with water from the landfill and also said its visibility from the highway is disturbing.

“That whole area floods,” Stroud said about Dupree Park. “When you increase the footprint, you’re kicking water back into Bayou Meto.”

Conrad said that once it’s fully developed, the landfill would be 117 feet from Bayou Meto and flood channels have been adequately developed and approved by FEMA.

He said all rainwater runs off the landfill and is directed to storm-water basins.

A third-party source then analyzes the water before it is discharged into Bushy Creek and Bayou Meto.

Wheatley and Conrad said Two Pine has plans with the Audubon Society to build a 43-acre wetlands development.

“The landfill will be the dominating view on the horizon,” Sansing said. “Any way you slice it, for the next minimum 40 years, we are going to be dealing with a negative, unsightly mound.”

“I don’t disagree with what you just said…It is a landfill,” Wheatley said.

“We were there first, so we don’t have that 1,000-foot separation,” Conrad said about I-440, whose construction near the landfill required cutting down trees that had previously hidden much of the dump. The original design was the state’s required 1,000 feet from Hwy. 67/167, he said.

“Nobody likes the landfill, but we got to put it somewhere,” Alderman Reedie Ray said. He told Conrad and Wheatley to make it “pretty and green.” He added, “Somebody said not in my front yard, but it’s here.”

Jacksonville residents who were at the meeting wanted to know how the landfill could help the city, which formerly received a host fee, but not anymore.

Any financial help Jacksonville gets is largely indirect.

Jacksonville students are given scholarships that are administered by the city. Wheatley said students have received $380,000 in scholarships.

Waste Management gives the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce $5,000 a year.

Jacksonville pays a dumping fee but is not charged an additional $1 fee per usage other cities must pay. That fee is given to the Pulaski County Regional Solid Waste Management District. Swaim sits on that group’s board.

Public Works director Jimmy Oakley said it’s cheaper for the city to be closer to the landfill.

“Otherwise, it would go to Little Rock,” Swaim said.

“It’s more or less an indirect benefit,” Wheatley said.

“We are the only landfill that generates electricity used as an energy source,” Conrad said. About 4,500 homes in North Little Rock use that energy.

“Turn that toward Jacksonville,” Ray said.

ADEQ has not set a date to decide if it will approve the Two Pine expansion permit. “The state has whatever time they deem they need to make a final decision,” Wheatley said.

“It will be a nice looking facility when it’s all capped and closed,” he promised.