Leader Blues

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TOP STORY >> Group is told landfill didn’t cause floods

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville’s branch of the NAACP held its first community forum at the community center on Friday and discussed the possible connection between the Two Pine Landfill and flooding of the Bayou Meto.

David Conrad, spokesman for Waste Management, which operates the landfill, told a crowd of about two dozen people that Two Pine is not the culprit behind the recent floods.

“I truly don’t believe we were the cause of the increase in flooding recently,” Conrad insisted.

Instead, he attributed the flood problems to a combination of unprecedented rainfall and an increase in building near the Bayou Meto. He said eight inches of rain fell between Dec. 22 and Dec. 25. He even speculated that beaver dams might be responsible for some of the high water.

To understand the causes of flooding, he said, “It’s got to take a comprehensive look at flood data.”

Conrad cited figures from the rain-gauging station on Hwy. 31 in Lonoke as being 17 feet above normal last month.

“It’s hard to tell these people who had their homes flooded that (the dump) is not the problem,” an audience member told Conrad.

“If anyone in the audience had problems, I’m very sympathetic. We’ve been suffering from it also,” he said. Conrad said that it is difficult for workers at the landfill to do their jobs when it is muddy.

Rizelle Aaron, chairman of the chapter’s legal-redress committee, asked Conrad if runoff from the landfill has any effect on the safety of the city’s drinking water.

“All of the trash at the site is covered with dirt,” he said. He sees no danger with water runoff.

Alderman Reedie Ray, who attended the meeting, said, “Jacksonville’s water is groundwater. It’s not surface water, and the water comes from Maumelle.”

But Conrad acknowledged the landfill’s area once held more than 3.4 million gallons of water, and some of it now has to go elsewhere.

“We’ve dug 43 acres of wetlands,” to help with Bayou Meto overflow, he said. “I know when I got here four years ago there was a drought.”

Conrad also explained how the landfill works.

The landfill includes 144 acres, which are divided into 16 sections that average nine acres. Each section is like a clay bathtub lined with plastic sheeting, he said. When trash is placed into a section, dirt is placed on top of it.

“After you are done with all of these landfills, what will you do with them?” someone asked.

Conrad estimated that the landfill will be used through 2048. But Waste Management will be responsible for maintaining the land through 2078.

“I don’t ever see houses being built on them” because of the way trash settles, he said.

“We want to be a recreation area for people to do birding activities. We’re proud of partnering with Audubon Arkansas on designing the best way to provide open space,” Conrad said.

“We are doing things to enhance wildlife such as planting native plants,” he said.

The forum also included a discussion about child support and expunging criminal records.

“Prisons are getting full of people who have not paid child support. But you can’t pay child support in jail,” Aaron said.

He said that when it comes to paying child support and expunging criminal records, “One of the biggest disappointments is not just a lack of understanding, but a lack of follow through.”

But he said expunging and sealing criminal records “falls along racial lines because there are more African Americans in jail than anyone else.”

“When you are talking about the NAACP, (we) work for all people not just black people,” Aaron said.