Supervisors send BP, Waste Management DEQ letter opposing oil-spill waste in landfill

Published 2:57 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Supervisor Patrick Lee on Tuesday motioned to send BP, Waste Management and Mississippi Dept. of Environmental Quality a letter requesting  full disclosure of information about the possibility of BP dumping “oil-spill debris” at the Millard landfill.

In addition, Lee added that the companies and DEQ should be told that the Pearl River County board of supervisors does not approve of dumping “oil-spill debris” in the landfill at Millard, which is owned and operated by Waste Management.

Supervisor Anthony Hales said on Tuesday that the county does not own the landfill and that Waste Management owns and runs it, although the county has a contract with the company to dispose of county refuse.

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Hales said that if everything is proper and legal, he believes there is little the county can do about blocking dumping of “oil-spill debris” at the landfill. However, he said it seems to him that any type of oil dumped at the landfill would be prohibited because the landfill is set up to receive nonhazardous material only.

Hales said it was unthinkable to him that oil would be classified as “nonhazardous.”

The latest comments and actions by Pearl River supervisors on Tuesday comes in the wake of statements made on Friday by DEQ Director Trudy Fisher, who told the Sun-Herald newspaper in Biloxi that DEQ agrees with tests saying the “oil-fill debris” is “nonhazardous” and can be dumped in landfills in Harrison and Pearl River counties.

Harrison County supervisors also have protested a plan to dump debris in a Harrison County landfill, and has asked the governor and Fisher to rule against allowing BP to use the landfill no matter how the debris is classified.

After Lee made his motion, supervisor Hudson Holliday said he would  like to add to the motion that Pearl River supervisors “be given some assurances that it is not coming.”

Said Hales, “We don’t even know on a daily basis what is actually going in there (to the landfill), so we are depending on EPA and DEQ to do their jobs. You can go on record and say, ‘I don’t want you to bring this stuff in here,’ but if it is legal, how can you stop it?”

Hales on Friday quoted a Waste Management official he had talked to as saying that there is “a slim possibility” that oil-spill debris would be brought to the Millard landfill, but the official, whom Hales would not identify, said  that he was not “in the loop” on the decision-making process and that his comments were unofficial.

Hales said on Tuesday he had hoped that Waste Management would have had a spokesperson at the board of supervisors’ meeting on Tuesday. The board meets again on Monday at 9 a.m. and Hales indicated there might be a possibility of getting a spokesperson to address the board then.

Resident Donna Willcutt asked supervisors that if the “oil patties” are classified as nonhazardous, why do oil disposal crews wear haz-mat suits and gloves and other protective gear. “And why is it placed in special bags and taped if its nonhazardous?” she asked.

Replied Hales, “It doesn’t mean that everything they pick up is coming to this landfill at Millard. I doubt very seriously that oil patties will be coming to Millard landfill. I just don’t see how that can happen.”

Supervisor Sandy Kane Smith seconded Lee’s motion, which passed unanimously.

DEQ’s Fisher last week told reporter Karen Nelson of the Sun-Herald that the DEQ agreed with the companies tests and that her agency would monitor the companies as they dumped the “oil-spill debris” in landfills in Harrison and Pearl River counties.

That set off alarm bells among residents and supervisors and prompted the Tuesday discussion and motion.

Said Fisher on Friday, “I am being asked ‘Can you stop it?’ I could stop it if it is hazardous waste. I could stop it if we get a different type of material in here and it shows it’s hazardous. I can’t say, ‘I don’t want it,’ because I don’t want it.”

Fisher maintained on Friday that it was not her decision, that the legal papers dictated the situation and that BP and Waste Management had papers saying the debris was nonhazardous, and therefore, could be placed in local landfills.

(Information from the Sun-Herald was used with the newspaper’s permission.)