Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Arrowhead Landfill Complaint 02/16/10

To: Lisa Jackson
EPA Headquarters

Please accept the following complaint in respect to PCA Arrowhead Landfill.

Ms. Jackson,
I have written you twice in the past concerning the PCA Arrowhead Landfill in Perry County Alabama. As you are well aware, this site is receiving the disaster coal ash from Kingston Tn. The situation here grows more dire with every rain event. Excessive water in the landfill is causing off-site violations, some intentional it seems.

We have notified EPA Region 4 and ADEM of this situation. Up to now, both EPA and ADEM are taking the operators word that no violations exist. I am presenting you now with overwhelming evidence that this landfill is not and has never been in complete compliance since the disaster ash started coming.

People throughout the community report nightly pumping of stinking gray / tannish waste from the landfill. I have personally seen it and documented the pumps, the gray sludge leaving the site. Arsenic and other pollutants  of concern have been reported to EPA and ADEM to no resolve. To-date, we can find NO reports showing where sampling has been done or toxic releases documented. I personally informed Mr. John Hagood, interim director ADEM of these illicit night time discharges but ADEM has chosen not to investigate. Instead, all the report states that Mr. Cook, landfill manager denies the claim. No tests, no samples, no interviews of employees or nearby residents effected, just a simple denial by the manager was good enough to refute hundreds of photos, certified lab results,  stories from the community, or first hand eye witness account by me.

I anxiously await your response to the complaint found below. It is a large document and will be sent in two parts. In no way should this be considered two separate complaints. Both are a part of a single complaint that will, in my opinion, show non-compliance throughout the entire landfill. According to the agreement with EPA and TVA, no ash can be shipped to any landfill that does not meet compliance standards. We therefore respectfully request that EPA order a complete stopping of disaster ash to {Perry County until this landfill is in complete compliance as certified by EPA national headquarters. EPA Region 4 and ADEM have failed us.

In an inspection report dated 01/06/10, 20 days after a complaint was issued by David Ludder, ADEM inspector James Couch claims to find no violations and notes the presence of only chalk staining on newly installed silt fences.

Two days prior, another ADEM inspector Ms. Janna McIndoe inspected the landfill.  The white staining was observed on the silt fences by Ms. McIndoe on 01/04/10, 18 days after Mr. Ludder’s complaint was filed.  The ADEM report goes on to say that there was staining in the ditches alongside Perry Co. 1.  However, had ADEM conducted a timely follow-up inspection, ADEM would have found that there were NO BMPs installed on December 15, 2009 and several days thereafter.

The facts and allegations surrounding the Mr. Ludder’s December 15, 2009 complaint are very serious.  Alleged discharging of unpermitted coal ash wastewater is a concern warranting ADEM’s immediate attention, yet ADEM waited 18-days to conduct a follow-up inspection. When the inspection was conducted, no significant level of effort was made to interview landfill employees, residents living nearby, or conduct field sampling.  ADEM’s actions on this matter are woefully inadequate. 

The staining in both ADEM reports indicates offsite deposition of landfill material. I find it interesting that neither inspector saw these as violations. I found it just as interesting that even though Mr. Ludder’s complaint stated that Arsenic was a concern ADEM chose to take no samples. No sample results are available online and ADEM has not provided any information to refute my strikingly high arsenic findings (0.840 mg/l, on 12/15/09).

In an ADEM inspection report dated 11/16/09 by Janna McIndoe, she states, “continue to work slope adjacent to active face to prevent water from collecting there.”  Obviously, PCA has taken no such action to prevent water collection or runoff from the active face.  Furthermore, ADEM has not taken any enforcement action to foster compliance or resolve non-compliance.

ADEM’s only effort to investigate illicit night time discharges was to verbally and informally ask Mr. Cook if PCA had initiated such discharges.  ADEM inspectors documented Mr. Cook’s allegation that no ash contact water is being allowed into roadside ditches.  Mr. Cook is not an ADEM inspector.  The investigator should have conducted a thorough inspection without Mr. Cook’s input, collecting independent samples, and reporting what the evidence showed.  ADEM’s report indicates that all of the clear, direct and well documented evidence collected by me and submitted by Mr. Ludder was refuted simply because Mr. Cook said so.

Overwhelming pictorial evidence has been submitted to support the allegation of night pumping at the landfill of wastewater from the landfill into roadside ditches.  Collection of material in the ditch has rendered two separate arsenic levels that exceed EPA safe drinking water standards, and one value much higher than the water quality criterion for aquatic life.  While people do not drink from the ditch, it leads through private land where farm animals do drink from the surface water.  In the report dated 01/06/10, ADEM states… “According to facility personnel rainfall events had caused water to start overtopping the haul road that was constructed of local chalk material.”

If that is the case, then this condition must have also been true on 07/13/09, 12/10/09, 02/03/10, 02/05/10, 02/07/10, and every other time I have been in Perry County over the last 9 months.  The ditches are always tan/gray and, according to residents living there, stinking water flows in local ditches and creeks even when there is no rain.  If the pumps only work to pump storm-water, then why are the roads wet and ditches full of white material during dry periods? 
ADEM seems to think that ‘because Mr. Cook says so’ everything must be OK.  Despite mountains of evidence to support violations and lab results showing toxic levels of Arsenic off-site, ADEM has taken Mr. Cook’s word instead of examining the evidence and conducting the most basic responsible inspection.

On my December 15, 2009 inspection of the landfill, gray water was flowing in the ditch. On entering the landfill, I found a high volume pump, still hot to the touch. The pump discharge hose was pointed over the road toward Co.Rd1, gray, stinking liquid was running down the haul road into Co. 1 ditch. Samples taken from the end of the pipe were as follows... Conductivity 2290 umho/cm, C.O.D. 266.6, NH3N 2.00 mg/l

All this occurred in the evening.  Arsenic was detected at 0.840 mg/l in the surface water in the ditch adjacent to the pumps yet ADEM refused to take samples. Why not?

 According to Mr. Cook, “runoff water that has come in contact with coal ash is being captured by the leachate collection system.”  ALL water in the landfill comes in contact with coal ash.  All of this contact water should be treated before any release.  To date, PCA has discharged massive amounts of potentially contaminated water directly to local streams. ADEM has taken no action to resolve this matter or lessen the potential impacts upon local residents and the environment.
Daytime aerial view of pumping activity

Offsite tracking of material is a daily occurrence.  Leachate, garbage, and many other bulk haulers are entering and leaving the landfill with no precautions taken to insure no offsite tracking occurs.  In Kingston TN, where the disaster ash is being loaded into rail cars, multiple precautions are being taken such as triple washing trucks, trains, and cars leaving the site.  People have to wear protective clothing and remove potentially contaminated items before leaving the site.  In Perry County, an environmental justice community, no precautions whatsoever are being taken to protect the community. 
WHY are the people of TN more important than the people of Perry County?

Now that the landfill operators are being closely watched, they are perhaps minimizing alleged nighttime discharges.  As a result, leachate is collecting at excessive levels, even to the crest of the landfill dike.  The liquid levels actually stand well above the top of the liner and the high water levels seem to be consistent regardless of rain.  It is my understanding the landfill allows a maximum permissible liquid level of only 18 inches above the bottom of the liner. There looks to be at least 20 feet of water standing in existing cells. 
Is recent ground water testing data available?  When was the last round of groundwater monitoring tests?  What do the trends of groundwater contamination show?  Leaking liners will immediately cause significant contamination of ground water.  EPA should, at once, begin a regiment of testing both on site groundwater and off-site groundwater locations through the community down grade from the landfill on all sides.

On 07/09/09, PCA submitted a letter to ADEM stating that tarps are not needed due to moisture.  I would agree, but I also see where the excess moisture and trucks hauling contaminated material are overloaded and spilling all along the road. This means that the haul road itself is now contaminated and all storm water leaving the haul road should be treated as potentially toxic. No BMPs are visible along any stretch of the haul road.  Thus, it is evident (even in the absence of night time discharging) that contaminated storm water is allowed to flow to Tayloe Creek untreated.  We are in a wet season now. In the coming months, the rain will subside and all of this mud will become airborne dust. NO TARPS ARE SEEN ON ANY DUMP TRUCK WORKING TODAY. ALL WERE OVERLOADED AND SPILLING ASH.
View from Booker Gipson's front yard

The train unloading facility is a disaster in progress.  Ash laden train cars are pulled in and unloaded by two track-hoes that are sitting on pads constructed of ash.  These machines are located directly on top of the culvert leading to Tayloe Creek with failing or nonexistent BMPs.  Once the bulk of the ash is removed, the cars then switch tracks for final cleaning and washing before returning to Kingston.  In this process, PCA is washing untold tonnage of ash-contaminated mud into the drainage basin of Tayloe Creek.  Past photos have shown that no BMPs existed until the recent inspection.  On 07/13/09 there were NO BMPs visible.  On 12/10/09 no BMPs visible.  On 02/03/10, after the recent inspection BMPs are visible standing under several feet of sludge.  On 02/07/10 the same scenario exists.

In one photo, I count 7 high pressure hoses all washing ash contaminated material into Tayloe Creek via drainage ditch with massive failures of BMPs.

At the point of discharge (POD) into Tayloe Creek, PCA has constructed a dam of riprap in the streambed and is using the stream as a treatment facility. This is prohibited by both USACE and EPA regulations.  The dam is and has been obvious for some time now.  How did EPA and ADEM miss this? (See PDF Arrowhead Landfill loadout)

I can find no USACE permit on file for this facility.  The entire headwaters to Tayloe Creek lie, for the most part, in the landfill permitted area.  Multiple streams in the headwaters are slated to be destroyed and buried under ash / garbage.  Is there a USACE permit for this damage and where can I view it?

The issues I have noted cover a period from July 2009 to Feb 2010.  In all incidences, multiple violations have existed month after month with no ADEM action to cease active violations or prevent future violations.  In spite of notable evidence, follow-up inspections by ADEM and EPA have failed to identify a violation.  This leads me to believe that EPA and ADEM have NOT performed a thorough inspection of the entire facility in its history of existence. 

According to the disaster ash acceptance agreement, no ash may be shipped to a facility that does not meet federal and state regulations.  This facility has demonstrated from the beginning that it cannot comply.

We therefore strenuously reiterate our request for intervention by EPA headquarters in this matter and request a full accounting be provided. No further shipments of Kingston disaster ash can be sent to a failing landfill.

The illicit actions in Perry County are connected to the most significant environmental disaster in U.S. history.  As such, the attention of congress and national media remain warranted.  By notice of this letter, I am also informing the U.S Congressional Sub-committee Environment and Public Works, the Honorable Barbarah Boxer, CNN, CBS and other media outlets of this assault on the wildlife and human residents of Perry County. 

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