BREAKING NEWS – Landfill wants to expand

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, March 19, 2009

If the permits are approved by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality Permit Board, the county landfill just north of McNeill could expand by almost 30 acres making the landfill site more than 108 acres. That includes the approximate 10-acre closed landfill area.

The three permit applications, all amended into the county’s waste management plan by the former Pearl River County Board of Supervisors, if approved by the DEQ, will allow TransAmerican Waste Management to expand the dump site an additional 29.89 acres, as well as permit it to solicit solid waste business from an additional six counties — Jasper, Jones, Perry, Simpson, Covington and Smith.

The public hearing for the three permits, one that allows the waste facility to expand land and business-wise, and one each for storm water management and air monitoring, was held Tuesday evening at the McNeill auditorium. A handful of residents attended the meeting.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Billy Warden, Administrator of Solid Waste and Mining Permitting Branch of the DEQ, said the first permit will allow TransAmerican to redesign and expand the landfill. He added that the permit is good for 10 years before the company will have to re-apply.

The second permit will allow the company to add two additional discharge points, as well as re-issue the storm water management permit. “The water that falls on the landfill must be contained within the cell,” Warden said. “It is then collected and either treated or taken elsewhere for disposal.”

Warden said that the storm water that does not fall on the landfill, but on the surrounding land, also is monitored through a series of wells. An initial geological investigation was done prior to the landfill first opening, Warden said, and an additional study was done prior to the permitting process to ensure the 30 acres is comprised of adequate materials to allow the storm water to filter properly without contaminating ground water.

“A geological investigation was done prior to the landfill opening,” Warden said, “and prior to expansion, one was done on the new site.” The reason, he said, was the state requires five feet of “low permeability” below the liner which contains the landfill.

In addition, there are several ground water monitoring wells located around the landfill to monitoring possible contamination from landfill materials. Those wells, according to Warden, are tested twice annually, with tests being done from wells where the water is tested prior to filtration, and afterwards. “There are one or two wells tested before the water goes into the ground water and one or two afterward,” Warden said.

The third permit is the re-issuance of the draft air permit, which requires the company to monitor the release of gas from the landfill. That requirement ensures that dangerous gases are not seeping out from the landfill. “It is monitored by law,” Warden said. “When it reaches a certain threshold, they must design an extraction unit.”

The unit would probably burn off the excess gas, he said, adding that one landfill along the Gulf Coast not only extracts the gas fumes, but pipes it to DuPont Industries which uses the gas as an energy source.

When the public comment period came, only three residents spoke to the DEQ representatives about the proposed landfill expansion.

One of those, Richard Swinson, compared the monopoly of TransAmerican with the economic woes of the country. “Our country is in a fiscal crisis because of corporate greed and a lack of governmental agencies to monitor,” he said. “This is a similar problem. A large corporation is asking to expand in a relatively poor county and there is a large governmental body that is supposed to be monitoring them.”

Saying he had two points to make, Swinson asked, “What is the demonstrated need,” questioning the company’s desire to expand. “In the ’06 report, the recited capacity was 25 years; my question is why do we need to expand?”

Secondly, he asked about the request to add six additional counties for the company to be able to solicit business from, noting that its co-company, Waste Management, has five landfills in southern Mississippi and Louisiana. “In principal, this represents a monopoly,” Swinson said.

Board of Supervisors president Anthony Hales said it isn’t as simple as that. Hales said that the county was required by state law to have in place a solid waste management plan. “The county is required by state law to have a 20-year waste management plan,” adding that if the landfill was not included as part of the plan, the county would have had to either go into the waste management business, build a landfill, operate it, and collect the waste, or build transfer stations as well as have collection and disposal plans.

“We are required by law to provide solid waste management,” Hales said. “If the landfill was not there, the county would have to develop our own county landfill or make arrangements to take it elsewhere.”

The landfill is a private enterprise, he said. Adding the additional six counties was a matter of business sense for the company. “It is a private enterprise and its goal is to make money,” Hales said. “They are in competition with other companies, so when they have the option to (collect from other counties) they have the opportunity to stay in business.”

Hales said that a point he wanted to make was that even though the landfill may be granted permission to collect solid waste from the other counties, that does not mean it will actually be able to secure the business. “That does not guarantee they can take in these other areas,” said Hales.

Warden said the next step is for the DEQ to consider all suggestions and comments made during the public hearing, then present the permits and all related materials to the DEQ Permit Board for approval or denial. That board, which consists of various state leaders from various environmental and agricultural agencies, meets the second Tuesday of each month in Jackson.

The April 14 meeting was the soonest the board could consider the approval of the permits, Warden said. It is an open meeting and anyone from the public is welcome to attend. The board meets at 9 am, at the DEQ building, at 515 Amite Street, Jackson.