Public hearing on solid waste

Published 10:00 pm Friday, January 19, 2007

Many residents in Pearl River County responded to what supervisors charged was a scare tactic that persuaded them to attend a public hearing last nightconcerning the future of the county landfill.

While the identity of the group or organization behind postcards received by voters and automated telephone calls is unknown, they did bring residents to a public hearing on a proposed expansion of the county landfill.

The most common complaint facing the supervisors at the hearing concerned a petition for a vote on the proposed footprint and coverage area expansions for Waste Management for garbage to go into Central Landfill in Millard. The petition was filed in October 2005 to allow the people of the county to vote on the future of Central Landfill. To date, the Pearl River County Board of Supervisors has not acted on the petition by adding the issues concerning the expansions to the ballot in November. The failure to act on the petition has caused a lawsuit to filed against the supervisors by the Concerned Citizens of Pearl River County, the organization backing the petition.

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Allen Anderson of Poplarville asked why hired a lawyer from Hattiesburg to defeat the petition.

Another resident asked why the supervisors would not allow the residents to vote on the proposal. Supervisors responded that legal issues restrict them from commenting.

Only one supervisor stood up and gave a brief but emotional comment.

District IV Supervisor Robert Thigpen said that when the first Waste Management proposal came out with the Louisiana expansion on it, all five of the supervisors voted it down.

“And we’re getting crucified right now,” Thigpen said. “I ran for this office to make a difference.”

Thigpen contends that the expansion proposal is from Waste Management and not from the supervisors and if any resident of the county with a county tag on their vehicle would like to they can call him. He said his number is on the cards that were mailed out and if a resident calls, he and the resident can sit down to a cup of coffee and talk about facts.

Richard Swenson, with Concerned Citizens of Pearl River County, said he and his organization had nothing to do with the cards that were mailed out earlier this week and they are upset that someone would make personal attacks on the supervisors.

Swenson also expressed his opposition to the expansion proposed by Waste Management. He said that at the current rate of waste coming in to Central Landfill and the current size of the footprint the county has about another 30 years of room to dump. The proposed expansion from 80 acres to 127 acres would give Central Landfill a life span of 250 years at the current tonnage rate.

Waste Management turned in an expansion proposal in May 2004 that would have included the New Orleans area but met with great resistance from county residents and the board of supervisors alike. When that proposal was rejected by the board, Waste Management worked up a new proposal last year for the supervisors to review. Rumors have circulated that if Waste Management does not get last year’s proposed expansion, which does not include any new Louisiana parishes, Central Landfill may close. Steven Campbell with Handi Waste, a local independent waste hauler, said he fears if that happens, his business will crumble.

“I just think it’s a shame, man, we need this expansion,” Campbell said in a phone interview. “If they close that landfill, this county’s going to be a mess. I just think that’s a bummer, man.”

Citizens at the meeting were angered by the rumors that the expansion will allow waste from the New Orleans area into the county, though the new proposal turned in last year added no new parishes.

Some residents are so opposed to the landfill they proposed to replace the current county administration.

“I think we need to take a look at the supervisors and make a determination if they need to stay there,” said Ron Copland.

Nancy Thompson of Carriere is more concerned about the quality of the water if there is an expansion. She said she worries that if the landfill were leak into the county aquifer, it would become contaminated.

“I know a lot about waste being a nurse. You don’t poop in your back yard,” Thompson said, and proposed, “Let’s send our trash to someone else.”

One resident who used to work at Central Landfill said he has seen the kind of materials that have come in there. John McGhee of Carriere said copper does not decompose.

“If you knew what was coming in there, you would raise some sand too,” McGhee said.

Other claims included dumping taking place after hours by truck drivers who had keys to the gates. Robert Lee with Lee Trucking claimed that was happening.

Sol Tavai of Poplarville said he was a commercial diver for about 30 years in the Gulf of Mexico and he has watched the dumping by the oil rigs diminish marine life.

With the new population in the county and all the new subdivisions going up, Cade Travis of Picayune said Central Landfill will have all the waste it needs to stay profitable.

“I’m just a guy who lives in Pearl River County who doesn’t want it turned into a dump overall,” Travis said.

Craig Stasny of Poplarville wonders if the Pearl River Utility Authority deemed the land in the county unsuitable for septic systems how the soil could support a landfill.

“But it’s suitable for 127 acres of everybody else’s sewer,” Stasny said.