By Jason Morton Staff Writer
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 11:34 p.m.
Perry County landfill owners file for bankruptcy
Perry Uniontown Ventures and Perry County Associates own Arrowhead Landfill.
Phillips and Jordan Inc. and Phill-Con Services LLC operate the 978-acre site near Uniontown.
The owners filed for bankruptcy protection, saying the operators have withheld significant portions of a $95 million contract awarded by the Tennessee Valley Authority.
The bankruptcy petition was filed Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Mobile by landfill owners Perry Uniontown Ventures LLC and Perry County Associates. They are seeking protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code while they sort out a business dispute with landfill operators Phillips and Jordan Inc. and Phill-Con Services LLC.
Perry Uniontown Ventures and Perry County Associates own the land and environmental permits for the Arrowhead Landfill, a 978-acre landfill near Uniontown that is the recipient of tons of coal ash that spilled from the holding pond of the Tennessee Valley Authority's coal-fired Kingston Plant in December 2008.
Since July 2009, almost 1 million pounds of the ash, which is known to contain toxins and heavy metals such as arsenic, have been delivered by railroad from Roane County, Tenn., to the Arrowhead Landfill.
According to court documents filed Tuesday, Phill-Con Services and Phillips and Jordan Inc. are accused of withholding significant portions of a $95 million contract awarded by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates the Kingston Plant.
As a result, Perry County taxpayers have yet to receive almost $780,000 in fees from the coal ash deposits, the bankruptcy petition alleges.
Jeffery J. Hartley, attorney for the landfill owners, said they had no choice but to petition for Chapter 11 protection while they reorganize, because Phillips and Jordan has refused to pay them.
Attempts Tuesday to reach attorneys for Phillips and Jordan and Phill-Con Services for comment were unsuccessful.
Also, Perry County Commissioners could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.
Hartley, in a news release, said the operation of the landfill would not be affected while the business dispute is sorted out in the courts.
“The Arrowhead Landfill has all of the elements necessary to pay its obligations, to be profitable and to ensure the safe disposal of coal ash from the Kingston Plant ... ,” Hartley said. “The facility will continue to operate safely and with the extraordinary standard of excellence established throughout the facility's life.”
That operation is at the heart of lawsuits that were being prepared by Florida-based environmental lawyer David A. Ludder on behalf of about 150 Perry County residents.
Feb. 5 marks the end of a 60-day notification window required before Ludder could file the suits claiming violations of environmental protection laws.
“With bankruptcy comes an automatic stay against new litigation against the bankrupt party,” Ludder said. “So the residents will not be able to file a lawsuit against the two bankrupt parties until their bankruptcy is resolved.”
Ludder was preparing to claim that leachate, a liquid-based sludge containing coal ash-infused water along with other deposits in the Arrowhead Landfill, had been taken by pump truck to the city of Marion's wastewater treatment plant for disposal.
Not only had Perry County Associates not obtained the necessary permits from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management for such a disposal, the Marion treatment plant was unequipped to handle such material, Ludder said.
The result was an odor reportedly emanating from the landfill and the treatment plant, although the shipments to the wastewater plant halted after Ludder filed a complaint and a notice to sue late last year.
Some residents reported suffering from headaches, nausea and vomiting, and Ludder said that many had been forced since the summer to keep doors and windows shut at all times in order to fight off the smell.
The odors, Ludder said, constitute violations of both the Clean Air and Solid Waste Disposal acts, which prevent landfills from causing odors that could do harm to nearby residents.
“About 150 Perry County residents have been inconvenienced and harmed as a result of the way the landfill was being operated,” Ludder said.